The Great Olympic Beer Scandal
Be honest. Just how excited were you when London won the Olympics? I thought so. The needle on the apathy meter has been worryingly low across the nation and even now, less than two weeks away from the big event, there is a tangible absence of collective engagement.
This, unfortunately, is not a surprise. We all know it is a British tradition to complain about everything, expect the worst and celebrate failure. Nevertheless, even the most hardened sceptic must be truly astonished at the bungling display of bureaucracy unfolding before us. The ticket scandal, lack of passport control staff, security guards and a crumbling M4 are just the high profile displays of ineptitude that have forced their way into the public domain. Behind the scenes the reality is, almost certainly, much worse. For example, I actually visited the Olympic Village during its construction phase and, once I had completed a morass of forms, been searched with airport style rigour (three times) and attended a ‘state the obvious’ health and safety briefing, there were clearly visible signs of damp and leaking pipes in the athletes apartments and that was six months before anyone moves in.
Despite all this, and somewhat ironically, it is not the incompetence of the organisers or, unfortunately, the anticipation of a sporting spectacle that has had temperatures rising recently. Instead, if the debate in our local pub is any way representative, it has been the unashamedly blatant steamrollering of the Corporate over not just the little guy but in many ways the very essence of the Olympic ideal too.
The press and the twitter-sphere have been awash with numerous petty minded examples. From spectators not being allowed to post pictures on Facebook, to the banning of chips (unless with fish) at venues and the confiscation of charity cakes and toys bearing even the vaguest resemblance to official merchandise. We even had our collar felt at PerfectPint when the ‘established 2012’ part of our logo fell foul of the ludicrously narrow minded types at Locog head office. Meanwhile, the terms and conditions document for ticketholders stretches to a mind boggling 7000 words. I could probably summarize them in 7, “You are not allowed to enjoy yourself”.
Predictably, all this corporate induced suppression has not left the beer world unscathed. What was billed by David Cameron as an opportunity to showcase the best of British produce will see not a single real ale pass spectators lips. At a time when the beer scene in the UK has never been more vibrant and when record numbers of real ale breweries exist this is shocking. Visitors will instead be forced to imbibe bland multi-national brews that are far removed from skilled, craft product that frequents pubs throughout the country. The ban is comprehensive and complete. Not even at sporting venues where existing beer pumps exist, such as Marston’s at Lords or Brain’s at the Millennium Stadium, will they be allowed to serve the national drink. Instead it will be Heineken, in a plastic glass, for over £7 a pint (cash please as not all credit cards are allowed). Why not go the whole hog and give them the authentic British Heineken experience, namely the atrocious 3.4% version of the drink that we were forced to endure for many years when it was brewed here under licence?
The ban extends to advertising in and around the grounds, including pubs deemed to be giving undue prominence to rival brands even if they happen to sell those beers all year round as part of the ordinary course of business. Protection of a brand or copyright is fair enough but this is going too far. Don’t hang those beer towels out to dry or you could be in trouble!
At least one MP, Greg Mulholland, who is proving to be a worthy ambassador for the Pub, has recognised the sheer lunacy of the situation. He has tabled a motion at the House of Commons to debate the matter and we applaud him for doing so. He goes on to say that the selection was "wholly inappropriate decision based purely on the size of Heineken's cheque book, and totally at odds with the strong emphasis on British character and identity at the heart of both the original bid and the preparations for the forthcoming London Games". Unfortunately we all know in our heart of hearts such worthy actions will be ignored or at best precipitate another ‘root and branch’ review by faceless bureaucrats, whose recommendations will then be kicked into the long grass.
But all of this does not mean we could or should do nothing about it. The age of social media means we can actively protest against such corporate bullying with our words and our wallets. I particularly like Sean Liqourish’s views on the subject in his Northern Beer Blog “You sponsor an event to gain goodwill and good publicity from it, not being in the same gang as an over controlling bully, people may fear you, but not like or respect you. When your big stick is taken off you, people get their revenge”. Well said. Surely the best revenge is to drink, celebrate and embrace what is good about real ale when and where can and to support the Great British pub throughout the period of the Olympics. So why not watch the triple jump with a pint of Triple FFF, catch the swimming at the Swim Inn, have a Marathon Stout whilst watching the… (you get the picture).
We at PerfectPint will be doing our bit too. Starting next week we will be promoting Olympic themed beers on the site and the app throughout the duration of the event. So, if you are a brewery big or small (especially the small) let us know about any special ales you have up your sleeve. Likewise if you are pub, why not support your local microbrewery efforts and give us a shout if you have any special festivities planned. Just be careful with your promotional posters though; mention 2012 more than once and you might find yourself joining us in the doghouse...