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Feeding the Olympics: menus to take Games visitors around the world

25 May 2012

Offering everything from goat curry to frosted cupcakes, South African barbeque to fish and chips, the spectators' menus to be unveiled next week aim to cast the London Games as a festival of food.

In an attempt to promote Britain's eclectic culinary culture alongside the dominant Olympic sponsors – McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Cadbury – the organisers are preparing to lay on meals and snacks for the holders of almost 9m tickets, including pasties from Cornwall, yorkshire pudding, bacon butties and "butchers' bangers", as well as more modern British and international tastes from sushi to salt beef.

To sell fish and chips, the London organising committee (Locog) had to get a special dispensation from McDonald's, the official restaurant sponsor, which is expected to provide 10% of meals served at the Games. Under its deal with the International Olympic Committee, t he fast-food chain had the sole rights to sell chips or french fries. It allows Locog's caterers to sell fish and chips, but not chips on their own.

"Out of the 205 nations sending athletes, 195 are represented in the six Olympic boroughs and that means British food is world food," said Jan Matthews, head of catering at Locog. "We are trying to make it feel like a food festival and we have walked round Borough market [a London gastronomic market] several times to try and get that feel. There will be fruit barrows and stalls where you can buy different types of olives."

British cheese, lobsters from the Channel Islands and crab from Shetland have been lined up. British sparkling wine.

"While sport will take centre stage, the 'Olympic experience' that people will take away will be built from and influenced by a multitude of factors," declares the Olympic food vision document. "And one of the biggest will be food and drink."

Products from Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Cadbury and Heineken will be the only branded food and drink on sale. A draft menu seen by the Guardian suggests there will be a strong American feel in parts of the park with baby back ribs for £12, bottles of Coke for £2.50, as well as muffins, pizza and wraps. A sandwich and a soft drink "meal deal" would cost £5.70.

With visitors to the main Olympic park expected to stay an average of eight hours, that means families could spend £50 on food in a day. "We have been fastidious about the food representing value for money," said Matthews. "We are offering quality food."

Basic environmental and ethical standards have been set, but the original aspiration to serve largely organic produce has not been met.

Meat reared to RSPCA-monitored welfare standards will be used in the athletes' village and media centre, where more expensive animals can be used because chefs will be on hand to use the whole carcass. Elsewhere, the meat will be Red Tractor certified, which does not necessarily mean free range. Bananas, tea, coffee, sugar and oranges will be fairtrade. All shelled eggs will be free range and all fish sustainably sourced.

There are hopes the application of the standards may have a lasting effect on British catering.

"Something as influential as the Games and the exposure the food strategy attracts means there has been a big conversation around catering standards," said Kath Dalmeny, policy director at Sustain, a campaign group for better food and farming who sat on the Olympics food advisory group.

"If you eat in a company canteen, at an event, at a museum, at a tourist attraction, everywhere you turn you are being fed by the caterers who are doing the Olympics. Some of them are now coming up to scratch and are realising that issues like free range and fairtrade are important."

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2012

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