Olympic stadium food prices – steep or sensible?

This week LOCOG released Olympic stadium food and drink prices – bottled beers cost £4.20 and curries are £8.50. I’m refereeing a debate between Nikki Whiteman and Patrick Steen – how much is too much?

Nikki doesn’t think it’s that pricey

As soon as an Olympic press release goes out, journalists begin frantically typing words like ‘outrageous’ and ‘extortionate’ in anticipation of something juicy.

Some Olympic costs have had me spluttering with horror, but others are surprisingly reasonable. Although I’m sure some will hate me for it, I have to say that the prices don’t seem that bad to me. A curry and rice for £8.50, coffee for £2.60, or a bottle of Coke for £2.30.

OK, it’s not cheap – but claiming these could be bought in a corner shop for tuppence ha’penny doesn’t do us any favours. Comparing these prices to something realistic – like the cost of food at major festivals or the price of beer in London itself – shows a much smaller and more reasonable mark up.

I go to music festivals every year and although I love them, I’m often seen weeping into my wellies when I hand over five quid for a measly jacket potato. The prices listed for Olympic food seem either on a par with festival prices or – in some instances – a bit lower. The beer costs a pound more than if you buy the same at a pub outside the stadium, and is actually not much more expensive than a bottle of beer in central London.

Call me bourgeois, call me rich, call me careless with my money, but these prices – while high – aren’t ludicrous to a Londoner.

Patrick thinks it’s a bit expensive

patrick6-avatarMy question is – why should Olympic nosh and grog be priced at the same level as festivals? I know it’s been an expensive event to build, but it has been paid for by taxpayers who have then had to fork out hundreds of pounds on tickets (that’s if they were lucky enough to get them).

The fact that they then have to pay over the odds for some fish and chips (£8) or a pint of beer (£4.20 for a 300ml bottle of Heineken lager) seems a bit rich.

If you extrapolate that bottle of beer to a pint’s worth, you’re looking at £7.23. Sure, a bottle is very different to a pint of beer from the tap, but when the average national price for a pint is £3.17, visitors are going to feel hard done by.

And let’s forget British nationals for a moment – do we want tourists to have the phrase ‘rip-off Britain’ leaving their lips as they exit the Games?

At least you’ll be able to fill your water bottle up for free at the stadium’s fountains (expect there to be a crowd – a bottle of water will set you back £1.60) and you may be able to take your own food if you can fit in your backpack.

Still, this is meant to be an Olympic Games for the people – rather than trying to race past the realms of reasonable pricing, why not make food and drink cheaper than the rest of London? Let’s make it a Games to remember for all the right reasons.

What do you think about the price of food and drink within the Olympic stadium? Do you back Nikki and feel they’re sensible, or are you on Patrick’s side and think they’re a bit steep?

What do you think of the food prices in the Olympic stadium?

I'm with Patrick - they're too pricey (for the Games of the people) (48%, 127 Votes)

I don't care - I'm fed up with the Olympics (42%, 112 Votes)

I'm with Nikki - they're not that bad (compared to other major events) (10%, 27 Votes)

Total Voters: 272

Loading ... Loading ...

Well done for pointing out that £4.20 for a small 330ml bottle of beer equates to £7.23 per pint – a total rip-off. And why sell small 330ml bottles rather than the more common 500ml bottles found in other beer-drinking countries such as Germany? A 500ml bottle or can would make much more sense and would be closer to the 568ml (pint) conventional UK beer measure. The only reason to sell a small 330ml bottle is to disguise the high price of the beer, but unfortunately this misleading commercial practice is already used by many restaurants in the UK.

The food prices are almost certainly a result of the high charges the food outlets have to pay for their concession.

As with most events the organisers squeeze as much money as possible out of the food and drink providers ( or put them out to tender) and these outlets then have to recoup their costs from the public with higher than normal prices.

Sophie Gilbert says:
1 June 2012

I’m with Patrick. Isn’t anyone allowed to take in a picnic? Genuine question: is it like at airports, no liquids unless purchased after passing security?

I think calculating bottles of beer equals £X per pint is a bit silly, to be honest. OK, if you wanted an exact pint that is roughly how much you’d have to spend on beer, but wherever you go a small bottle of beer will cost more per ml than a pint. In central London you can pay roughly 3.80 for one of these bottles of beer. That equates to around £6.50 per pint. Of course if you calculate the price like that it’s going to be shocking – beer in bottles is not as economical as it is in pints as you have to package up smaller quantities and make a glass bottle to put it in! As nfh says – this happens in many restaurants, etc. Similarly, if you buy Coke in small glass bottles it’ll be way more expensive than if the bar/restaurant you’re in serves it out of a soft drink tap.

Sophie – you can take in a picnic (which is good!), you just can’t take liquids. I think this is for security reasons, and I’d be up in arms about it as well if the organisers hadn’t arranged to have water fountains on site. I think at all events like this there should always be free water available – glad they’ve thought of this as I wouldn’t much fancy walking around on a boiling hot summers day with no chance to get water.

But why sell beer in bottles in the first place? With the quantities being sold, it would make more sense both economically and environmentally to sell beer from the tap. Unfortunately this culture for bottled beer has developed as some kind of fashion in the UK, which never caught on in other European countries where beer is popular.

The size of the bottle is also relevant. Many establishments sell a 330ml bottle for the price of a pint (568ml). This is a poor commercial practice.

I don’t think I need to add any more, but just to say we’ve added a poll to this Conversation now – vote for who you think is right: What do you think of the food prices in the Olympic stadium?

My vote will rely on some crucial information – are you allowed to take your own food and drinks into the stadium?

I’ve heard rumors that food and drink aren’t allowed in, but I don’t think that’s accurate. Basically – if you can take your own food and drink with you, I don’t think the price of the food and drink on-site is of huge consequence. However, if you’re banned from taking it in, then these prices could be seen as taking advantage of consumers that have no other choice.

These prices don’t surprise me at all and are fairly on the level for event prices. But Patrick makes an excellent point that, with the price people have already paid for tickets, maybe it would have been considerate to make the food and drink prices on site more affordable.

It’s a rip off, yes, but you have to consider that this cost a fortune to build and host. The pricing, for such a big hyped-up event, isn’t actually that bad – I once paid £9 for the smallest burger I’d ever seen at Wembley stadium.

Brits get charged ridiculous amounts abroad, why not charge those flocking to the UK the same? After all, if they don’t like it they can bring a packed lunch!

I’m completely with Nikki on this one. The food prices in particular don’t look that high. Have you tried buying food at Wimbledon or similar events? Come to that, you’d pay £7.50 for popcorn and a coke at my local cinema – in line with what you’d be charged at the Olympics for a proper meal.

And at least the Olympics has made an effort to source food ethically and locally (although I didn’t see any mention of organic options on the list, which is a shame).

If you don’t like the prices, take your own food with you. Or stuff your face before you go in. Unless, of course, they’re charging for the toilets.

I respect the Organising Committee for publishing their prices. Whether prices can be justified or they represent profiteering, customers deserve to know about high prices in advance.

It is also good that there is provision of free tap water. Perhaps this economical and environmentally friendly alternative to bottled water and soft drinks could be promoted by our sporting celebrities, or would that be deemed unfashionable?

Patrick is correct. People who enter the park have already paid a high price for tickets and should not be paying extra high food prices. The argument that most other venues also over-charge is a very weak one. Which magazine would be a very different magazine if we accepted the argument that because one group over-charges it’s okay for everyone else to do so.

According to the Terms and Conditions you cannot take food into the park. Here are some of the restrictions:

‘The following is a non-exhaustive list of restricted items which may not be taken into a Venue (LOCOG reserves the right to amend this list, generally, or in respect of any Venue or Session): food (save for baby food), alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages (save for baby milk and other valid medical reasons), liquids in containers of greater than 100ml in size,’………. ‘bottles or containers made of glass or other material, flasks, thermoses, refrigerators,’……………..

At the test event there was a food area in the adjacent shopping centre (outside the park) that served food at reasonable prices. It will be interesting to see if their prices are also inflated for the Olympic period.

Hi Jonas, you’re right – according to the ticket terms ‘food, except baby food’ is prohibited. However, spokesperson’s have said in the past that as long as it’s not a big picnic hamper and you can fit the food in your backpack that then fits under your seat, you should able to. However, it’s not clear. We’re going to look into this to find out for sure. Thanks

I am trying to get my head round the ban on ‘bottles made of glass or other material’. Presumably virtual bottles are permitted. 🙂

Ha, ha wavechange. For me not being able to take my fridge is the biggest disappointment. I was looking forward to dragging it through the Underground.

On the BBC they say food in a soft bag no larger than 25 litres – not sure of the source. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-18290432

Also interesting to see them point out beer prices at other events. £4.60 a pint at Wimbledon. £4.70 at Wembley. Then it’s the equivalent of £7 at the Olympics.

Sure, bottles are different – but if the only choice is bottles, then isn’t it fair to compare the pint cost at other events?

Veronica McGannon says:
22 June 2012

What over priced tickets are all you moaners going on about. £16 per ticket for OAP I think is brilliant. I can’t wait to enjoy this once in a life time event.
Whatever they do is going to be wrong in some ones eye’s. They can’t please everyone. No trouble getting our tickets, they even notified us when they were going to be delivered. Would have liked more but some poor souls didn’t get any, so my friends and I are very grateful for what we got..

top marks for Having official pricing AND having them published upfront.
however all of those are then lost because of
Not being able to bring your own food/drink in (even if it is for security reasons), immediately that says the food and drink has to be at reduced levels – as you have no choice.

It only adds to the impression that this is not a peoples olympics but a closed company event (it could be any big multi-nationals money making or PR venture) with invited company guests (free plus wined and dined as hospitality) a few guest tickets for the punters (paid for, and more).

It started when people were allowed to make their own olympic symbols or make easy existing use of the name/ temporary loss of rights to the name. What happened to home/ not for profit made. Does that sound like a communal/ public event or private company event.

Then the tickets, not sold in groups but randomly sold. Again looking after the company not the attendees.

Personally, totally disenfranchised from it, and will not be suprised if we see empty (china/2008 like) stadiums (and they are ‘suprised’ at the unsold tickets now ?)

This is not bitterness (honestly), this is sadness at what should have been an inclusive event for all. On the other hand, if you can afford travel, hotels and tickets for the event (we don’t all live in London), a few pounds extra for food/drink is a drop in the ocean ?

Philip Bradfield says:
1 June 2012

LOCOG (low gear ?) must make the position re food clear : else we’ll have vehement disputes at the gate.

Bottles ARE made of something: they need to specify what is allowed. 100ml OK provided you can take in several, AND REFILL FREELY (CHEERS)

In Israel, water fountains (free) were everywhere: not so in several South American states

I hope there is some shaded areas available

Phil says:
2 June 2012

As the above conversation show one of the major problems seems to be the difficulty of getting at firm information. It took a bit of searching to find this:-



I voted that I am with Patrick. However, judging by the two examples given I think the beer is a reasonable price but the curry is overpriced. I know, I know there’s always one awkward one. Given that food is allowed to be taken in, I would say that, for me it isn’t too much of an issue, but maybe for others.

Janet from Rugby says:
14 July 2012

We are going to the opening ceremony (4) and we don’t know whether to take a small picnic or buy food at the venue. Unfortunately I am being told horror stories on a Beefburger at £15 etc. Where can I find a comprehensive price list of the food venues within the stadium.
These tickets were bought as a special present so although expensive does not make us rich only Olympic fans.

Those were the Daily Mail horror stories 😉
Here are the ‘example’ prices only just published

As you note, despite much PR and clever clever stories on sustainability etc and how good they are, (but also despite being good, the UK suppliers are not allowed to say who they are !)

There was a BBC radio4 programme that did a summary also.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/b01k2b3j – this episode

The guardian reports
“A draft menu….
A sandwich and a soft drink “meal deal” would cost £5.70.”

but does seem very sad that the key facts for visitors are still not main links on the pat-themselves-on-the-back website.
What can/cannot be brought in
food offerings (all of them) and prices

google for “olympic menus” and there is more but nothing concrete,

and even the biggest McD’s (there will be 4) cannot overcharge by much (surely?)

I am sure the ubiquitous British bread packet will be making a strong showing at the Games, competing vigorously against the styrofoam burger box. I think the small volume of the beer bottles is more to do with making them less harmful when they land on your head in the fourth row than trying to exploit the monopoly – price could have been more pro rata though. Stoke up on a good breakfast, expect queues for the loos, and keep your commodium handy.

officlal website – no mention of food etc.
even in the site map
or venues

Will Diabetics be able to bring their own food in?

WILDEY says:
17 July 2012

Sorry, I think the whole thing will be a complete shambles and cost us a fortune.

I just don’t want to laughed at when I go travelling as coming from the country which staged the crap Olympics!

Alexandre says:
11 August 2012

I want to have a great experience; thus, I will be looking for a Champagne and Oysters bar!
ps. I am single, no family, so I can splush out

Rachel says:
30 May 2013

I know the Olympics are over now, but just wanted to say I found it all quite pricey, especially on top of the ticket prices. I don’t mind paying a bit more for healthy food though. I recently wrote a blog post on stadium food and how there might be hope for it yet 🙂 http://hungryhouse.co.uk/blog/lets-touch-down-on-stadium-food/