Like many people in the UK and beyond we’ve been following the countdown to the Olympics. It’s hard to believe it is finally here. London is a great city and it’s as if it’s ramped up a gear. You can literally feel the excitement from Londoners and visitors to the city alike.
However, like many Coeliacs top of our mind aside from sport has been the question of ‘what gluten free food is there at the Olympic Park?’ Surprisingly it’s not been easy getting a proper response to this question.
We emailed the London 2012 team and the official reply we received was:
Thank you for contacting London 2012 about food within the London 2012 venues.
There’s a great variety of tasty and healthy food and drink available to buy inside competition venues. The food offering caters for all cultural and dietary requirement, including dishes suitable for people following Halal, kosher, vegetarian , vegan and gluten-free diets.
With regards to bringing food, you may bring a small amount of food to snack on during your time at the venue. There are plenty of food and drink stands at all London 2012 venues, catering for a variety of cultural and dietary requirements. In the Olympic Park, there is also a number of picnic areas where you can sit and enjoy the food and drink you buy.
I hope this helps. Many thanks for your support.
London 2012 team”
Hmm. Strange - we couldn’t see any mention of which venues inside the park will be gluten free or any mention of whether menus will be coded to show gluten free options. Although we were pleased to see that you can bring a small amount of food to snack on at the venue. The last line seemed to imply the picnic area was only for food ‘and drink you buy’. Not ideal as by this stage we still had no idea of what gluten free food or drink was on offer.
However, as anyone who has got Olympic tickets knows the security for the Olympics is going to be ‘airport style’ with many restrictions to ensure a safe event for all. For example all visitors must:
- Arrive at least 2hrs before their event to get through security
- Be prepared for long queues
- If you bring a bag it must be small enough to fit under your seat or on your lap
- No liquids in containers bigger than 100ml (no glass containers)
- Advice is to only bring the minimum amount of items to get through security in time for your event
- You can only use cash or Visa debit or Credit cards (they are a sponsor)
See the London 2012 FAQs here for more info: http://tickets.london2012.custhelp.com/
Bringing your own food isn’t really an option if you’re going to spend the day there with your kids. You simply wouldn’t have much room for gluten free packed lunch for the whole family. And there’s only so many food items that you could bring that would last well hours in advance of eating and in what we hope will be nice hot summer weather.
So we tweeted London 2012:
Strangely we didn’t get a reply.
So.. we filled in the query form on the London 2012 website and asked the same question again. Yet we received the same standard reply as before on email (see above).
A week before the Olympics:
So.. we decided to ring London 2012. We spoke to a lovely woman who was keen to help us. But couldn’t. No. You see she didn’t know what venues were going to be there either. It seems LOCOG (the Olympic organising committee) hadn’t given London 2012 the information. This seemed like a ‘French Farce’. We had a flashback to an episode of the Olympic comedy ‘Twenty Twelve’ by the BBC (catch it on iplayer here). Was this a case of life imitating art? The lovely London 2012 thought that more information may be added to the London 2012 website on the 27th of July. So we thanked her and waited…
27th of July:
So..today we eagerly logged onto the London 2012 website to see what new information there was on gluten free food within the Olympic Park. Sadly there wasn’t any new information. Although the countdown clock greeted us warmly all we could see on page was old information from months ago. Ironically (for coeliacs) the page features a big picture of Fish and Chips.
The text on the website under simply says:
Whether it’s chicken jalfrezi on Brick Lane in east London, pie and mash at the local pub, or fish and chips in Weymouth and Portland – there’s something for everyone. On top of the excellent range of international food and classic British dishes, you’ll also find a wide variety of salads, sandwiches and street food – inside venues and around the UK.
Yet we’re still no further forward to knowing what we can eat that is gluten free. It seems that until we are there we won’t know if the curry is naturally gluten free ? Obviously the pie is out - as is the mash as this sometimes has flour added to it. Sandwiches - unless they’re gluten free no go for us and any other coeliacs. Street food - maybe good - perhaps Thai or Mexican? Yet again there’s a risk of cross contamination especially from oil or sauces.
Here’s the PDF link to some of the food that will be available inside the park: http://www.london2012.com/mm/Document/Documents/General/01/25/68/39/SampleLondon2012menu_Neutral.pdf Not much looks like it is likely to be Gluten Free.
We can’t imagine it will be easy to ask the usual 101 ‘is it gluten free?’ and ‘how is it prepared and cooked’ at the Olympics either. It will be beyond anyones current idea of busy. Think of the crowds after a City New Year Eve party and times those by 10.
Of course all the PR around food at the Olympics has heavily focused on one or two of the food sponsors i.e. McDonald’s and Coca Cola. The McDonald’s at the park will be the largest in Europe. So perhaps Coeliacs will end up there - all looking forlorn as they feel the eyes of everyone else bore into their backs as they ask for a McDonald’s burger meal with no pickle (malt vinegar), no bun (evil gluten) and fries with ketchup (Heinz and thankfully gluten free).
Opening Ceremony: Let’s get sharing Coeliac Olympic tips!
So Guerrillas if you’re off to the Olympic opening ceremony tonight or over the next few days - report back. Contact us via @gfguerrillas or via our Facebook page .We’re off to the Olympics twice over the next few weeks so we’ll feedback our findings too.
Our advice is try and eat before or after the Olympics so you’re not craving food whilst you’re there. To help all our fellow Guerrillas we’ve posted up our recommendations on where to grab a bite or gluten free beer in London on our Pinterest page here: http://pinterest.com/gfguerrillas/
For example you can pick up a Leon gluten free snack before you board the Javelin train from Kings Cross to Stratford. Or nip into any large Waitrose or M&S and hunt down their small selection of gluten free sandwiches. Our pin boards list lots of tips and GF venues for before or after the Olympics.
For info on other places to eat out at other areas around the UK hosting Olympic sports log onto our pals Coeliac in the City’s Pinterest page here: http://pinterest.com/coeliacin/
Food aside we’re dead excited about the Olympics being in London. Have a great Olympics and here’s to TEAM GB winning lots of medals ; )
PS: we’re now on Instragram so don’t forget to follow us and post up your gluten free pics!