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Olympic Food Lacks Variety

By Carolyn Bick, WBUR Intern

A food stand at one of London’s many Olympic viewing sites. (Photo by Carolyn Bick © Boston University News Service)

The smell of battered fish and frying onions wafted through the air of Hyde Park. Cheerful staff served up sausages sweating grease to hungry customers shielding their eyes from the sun. A Cadbury kiosk, made to look as though it was constructed out of chocolate, dominated the center of the venue, massive Dairy Milk chocolate bars on display beneath crazily-colored Maynards Wine Gum bags and bags of Cadbury Buttons. A nearby Japanese food stall offered its customers duck yakisoba, vegetable spring rolls, and vegetable tempura, but it was hard to tell what was what — all of it was battered and fried a deep golden-brown.

“Are you talking about how horrendous the food is here?” asked a woman, laughing a little, as she held out her baked potato overflowing with baked beans and melted cheese.

“Terrible choice,” said another, nodding at her curly fries covered in jalapenos and chili sauce.

Hyde Park in Central London, and Victoria Park in East London, are the two BT London Live sites. These venues sport three massive screens for spectators to watch the Olympic Games for free. For security reasons, no outside food or drink is allowed inside the venues — which leaves some visitors with very few options.

A plethora of fried foods at a food stand in an Olympic venue. (Photo by Carolyn Bick © Boston University News Service)

Yoann, a visiting Parisian, said he found little variety among the foods offered. He said all the choices reminded him of fast food.

“It’s not very healthy at all,” said Yoann. “You won’t find a salad in here.”

Furthermore, said Yoann, the food was not very good — and far too expensive, to boot.

“I ate half of it, and then I threw it,” said Yoann of his traditional British roast sandwich. “Then I buy curly fries. It was £5.00 for the curly fries. It’s too expensive.”

The few-and-far-between healthier options are expensive, too. One small sushi roll from Notso Sushi is £3.50; two rolls are £6.00. A hummus salad pita pocket from Goodness Gracious Healthy Foods is £5.50.

Pickings are also slim if you are on a special diet for religious or ethical reasons.

“I did see there is a vegetarian or vegan stall,” said Alex, a Londoner. “In terms of halal or Kosher, I didn’t see any signs to say whether anything was Halal, Kosher, or otherwise.”

A thorough walk around the Hyde Park venue reveals two vegan and vegetarian stands, though one is buried behind a stage; one certified, but unlabeled, Halal stand; no certified Kosher stands; and no advertised gluten-free options. Hyde Park venue management confirmed there are no certified Kosher options.

Dave Conaway, a Delta Airlines pilot from Jacksonville, Florida, said he does not think people with special diets would feel very comfortable ordering food inside the Hyde Park venue. He also said that leaving the venue to find acceptable food was not a good option.

“The problem is, if you don’t have a ticket, if you leave the park and it’s very crowded, you might not get back in,” said Conaway.

Even calling ahead to London 2012’s general inquiry line will not help. A representative for London 2012 was able to confirm Kosher and Halal vendors in the Olympic Park, but he said the database did not list the names of the vendors. The representative also could not confirm if there were any gluten-free options available in the Park, and could not vouch for the foods at the viewing venues.

 

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