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Going Dutch at Olympics: Heineken has sole rights

Added: Friday, April 13th 2012

The 2012 Olympics, a showcase for London and the rest of Britain, will be dominated by one beer brand – Heineken lager brewed in the Netherlands. Heineken’s domination extends beyond the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, east London, to all the venues for the games, including Lord’s, the home of English cricket.

Heineken has “sole pouring rights” at Olympic events. The London 2012 Organising Committee has three tiers of sponsorship deals for the games. The committee won’t reveal the sums of money involved but it’s understood that Heineken is a “tier three” sponsor, costing the Dutch firm £10m.

The package gives Heineken the rights to also sell two other brands in its portfolio, John Smith’s Smoothflow and Strongbow cider – but neither of the brands can be named. John Smith’s will be labelled “British Bitter” and Strongbow will be called “Cider”.

At Lord’s where Marston’s has the beer concession to sell Pedigree Bitter and is the official sponsor of the England cricket team, handpumps will be removed while the archery competition takes place during the Olympics. Portraits of cricketer Matthew Hoggard, Marston’s “beer ambassador”, will be covered up.

Visitors to the world-famous cricket ground, with its long tradition of ale drinking, will be offered Dutch lager and anonymous keg bitter and cider. But cask Pedigree will be available in the Lord’s Tavern, the bar and restaurant complex alongside the main entrance to the ground.

At such key Olympics events as Greenwich Park in London and Weymouth in Dorset, the Heineken portfolio will again be the sole lager, bitter and cider on sale at bars. Meantime Brewery in Greenwich said it would unaffected as it currently has no bars in the park. Pubs in Weymouth will be free to sell such local beers as Ringwood and Dorset.

A spokesman for the London 2012 Organising Committee, said: “Getting sponsorship for the games is a tough job and exclusive rights have to be offered.”

He added that sponsors’ rights had to be protected. The name “Olympics” cannot be used by other companies or organisations and he said that if pubs or the Campaign for Real Ale attempted to stage “Olympic beer festivals” they would be prevented from using the name.

One major British brewer of cask beer – who did not wish to be named – said it was disappointing that home-grown real ale would not be available at Olympics events but the cost of sponsorship was prohibitive.

A spokesman for Heineken, which owns the former Scottish & Newcastle breweries and brands, said the arrangement with the Organising Committee meant that the only brand name that could be used was Heineken.

“But we wanted to offer something else from the portfolio, which is why John Smith’s – Britain’s biggest-selling keg beer by far – and Strongbow will be available,” he added. But there will be no point of sale material allowed for the bitter or cider.

The Heineken spokesman pointed out that many venues are not suitable for cask beer as they are either temporary bars or lack the necessary cellar facilities.

Mike Benner, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale, said: “Britain’s brewing industry is revered the world over, not least at a time when there are now more small breweries in operation than at any time since World War Two.

“As a grand spectacle showcasing everything that is great about Great Britain, it is hugely disappointing that attendees inside Olympic venues won’t have access to a range of British real ale. Such a move represents a major missed opportunity to show off one of Britain’s historic industries.”

But CAMRA’s annual Great British Beer Festival will go ahead as usual during the first week in August – but as the regular venue, Earl’s Court, will be used for the Olympics, the beer festival will move a short distance this year to...London Olympia.

*The Pub is the Hub, the organisation set up by the Prince of Wales to support and save the British pub, is working with Tourism South East to promote pubs close to London during the Olympics. The two bodies have set up a special website:

During the Olympics, Alexandra Palace in North London will be coloured orange and will be run by the Dutch Olympics Committee as "Holland Heineken House" for the Dutch team and guests, with Heineken on tap. A spokesman for the committee said the house -- the first home of BBC Television -- would "celebrate Dutch achievements and culture".

*An edited version of this article appears in the Publican’s Morning Advertiser.

*Brains Brewery in Cardiff will have to remove its beer from the Millennium Stadium while the women's Olympics football tournament is staged there. Brains sponsors the Wales Rugby team, the Football Assocation of Wales and Glamorgan County Cricket Club but it will have to bow out in favour of Heineken at the Millennium Stadium. An "exclusion zone" will operate around the stadium, which will effectively cover most of the city centre and neither Brains nor pubs will be permitted to promote beer with banners or pavement signs. Brains beer, however, will still be available at Glamorgan cricket ground in Sophia Gardens as the ground -- which now enjoys Test Match status -- is outside the exclusion zone.

Daniel Goldsmith, the Green Party candidate for South West London in the London Assembly elections in May, said it was "a shame that the only beer at the London 2012 Olympics will be Heineken.This won't give visitors to the games an appreciation of the many quality beers produced in London." He was attending the launch of CAMRA's London City of Beer project at the Red Herring pub near St Paul's on 18 April. He praised the CAMRA initiative and said the Green Party supports "local breweries supplying local pubs, providing local jobs and producing superb beers."