London Calling: Del Boy Games charges for water

With the first sports events of the 2012 London Games taking place today, the time has come for to dust off its Olympic diary, with notes, links and insights from the MPC

Bottled wa’er? A guinea? Cushty!

When Del Boy Trotter started to flog off Peckham Spring Water, everyone knew he was a sarf London wideboy. So guess what the Lord of the Rings is doing now at the Main Press Centre? Yep, charging journalists £1.05 for a bottle of water.

Classy, that: charging an old-fashioned guinea.

London’s reputation for staging the Rip Off Games is unlikely to be assisted by heaping this indignity on to the world’s sports media, on top of the ridiculous £150 charge simply to be able to access the official news service of the Games. “But it is very good,” one LOCOG official tried to reassure. So that’s all good then.

Information, such as start sheets and results, and water are staples of any serious, international sports event’s media service, and are normally provided free of charge by the organisers. There was never any charge for bottled water in the MPCs at the Beijing, Athens or Sydney Olympics.

What makes the Info+ charge more galling for the 10,000 media attending is that it is justified by the costs of providing wired access – yet one of LOCOG’s leading sponsors is a telecoms company with international ambitions.

The American media has already started laying into London’s Paramilitary Games because of the number of uniformed troops having been called in to handle security because of the G4S omnishambles.

That members of the media, in common with the public, are having any bottles of liquid, including water, of 100ml or more confiscated by troops staffing the entrances to the Olympic Park will only create deeper resentment. And don’t you dare try to bring a bottle of Pepsi-Cola in a picnic for the Park.

LOCOG’s head of paper clips has been quoted as justifying the bottled water charges by saying that under the official Rate Card for charges of MPC goods and services, people could buy 24 bottles for a mere £15. Luvvly jubbly, Rodders!

“You can also bring in two litres of liquid via the MPC main entrance, whereas at all other entrances the limit is 100ml,” said the head of paper clips.

There were complaints on Monday night in the Olympic Park’s public areas that there were not enough water fountains to cope with the “mere” 60,000 attending the dress rehearsal for the Opening Ceremony, with long queues for the free water. The head of paper clips appears to have overlooked a detail in the MPC: there are reports of at least one water fountain there without any paper or plastic cups.

This time next year, Rodders, some people at LOCOG will be millionaires…

  • The brand police in the Olympic Park and MPC will hit staff reporters of Bloomberg and Reuters particularly hard. The companies issue their staff with corporate American Express cards, which will not do nicely at all in the Park, where card payments are only allowed with Olympic sponsors Visa.

We thought we were doing quite well when we got to 12,000 followers on Twitter (@SportSJA since you ask). Mark Adams, the communications director of the International Olympic Committee, reckons he can trump that. He says the IOC has 14 million followers on social networks.

One “award-winning” sports diarist has hardly covered himself in glory, with a feeble story about one of the two stadium announcers for the Olympic athletics events being, horror of horrors… a Canadian.

Garry Hill. Or is it Gary Hall?

The sports diary column managed to get not just one element of the announcer’s name wrong, but misspelled both his first and surname. It is, in fact, Garry Hill, and not “Gary Hall” (perhaps the diarist was confused with the name of two generations of American Olympic swimmers?).

In a report of a “controversial” “row” between LOCOG and the world athletics body, the IAAF, over the choice of announcer,  the diary overlooked the fact that international governing bodies often determine the event staffing in senior positions, such as referees and judges, as well as announcers.

What the diary failed to report is that Garry Hill/Gary Hall has been the “voice” of international athletics championships for three decades, providing the stadium announcements at most world championships and at the Olympics since 1992.

He also knows his stuff: Garry Hill/Gary Hall has been the Editor of Track & Field News, the American specialist monthly, for nearly 25 years. He’s no Charlie.

  • Hill’s commentary box colleague will be Geoff Wightman. Besides having been a former chief executive of Scottish Athletics, being married to a Wales distance runner Susan Tooby, and himself having won several international vests as a marathon runner, another important detail about Wightman is that is a some-time Dartford Harriers clubmate and training partner of SJA member David Powell, the former Times athletics correspondent.
  • To contact the SJA, contribute to the website or provide a note for this diary, contact the honorary secretary, Steven Downes by email:


Mon Sep 24: SJA Autumn Golf Day, Muswell Hill GC. Booking details from Paul Trow at

Thu Dec 6: 2012 SJA British Sports Awards. An Olympic year extravaganza. Note the date in your diary now. Details to be announced soon.