The Salt
12:46 pm
Fri July 13, 2012

An Olympic-Sized Outrage Grows Over French Fry Sales At The Games

Originally published on Fri July 13, 2012 9:24 pm

When McDonald's cut a deal to make itself the exclusive purveyor of french fries and the similar (but please don't say matching) chips at the 2012 Olympic Games in London later this month, it may not have anticipated the flurry of responses. Foodies raged, nutritionists nagged, and many called it another example of an American cultural takeover.

Later today, you can listen to London-based correspondent Philip Reeves for the latest on what some are calling sales of "non-freedom fries" at this summer's games on All Things Considered, including a snippet of the famed Greasy?fs=1&hl=en_US">Greasy?fs=1&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="440" height="330" wmode="opaque"> Chip Butty Song.

Meanwhile, here's a hearty helping of what we're reading now about Chipgate:

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Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. Until the other day, preparations in London for the Olympics seemed to be going smoothly. The Summer Games open in two weeks. Now, they've hit some trouble in the final stretch. It seems they were suddenly short of security. Several thousand British troops - some fresh back from Afghanistan - have been pulled in to supplement private security forces that fell short of personnel. Well, that's one thing, and then there's another problem that's cropped up. NPR's Philip Reeves reports this one is especially close to British hearts.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: The British are generally an easygoing and open-minded people, but there are some issues they care deeply about. They care about the Second World War. They care about beer, about the weather and in many cases, though not all, about their queen, and they care about chips. I don't know why you call them French fries. The chip is as British as drizzle and bad teeth. The British love chips. They eat them by the truckload and, no, not just with fish. In the north, they stuff fistfuls of chips between slices of buttered bread. This 1,000-calorie delicacy is called a chip butty. Chip butties are so popular in Yorkshire that people there sing about them. At big games, fans of the soccer team Sheffield United belt out their anthem

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE GREASY CHIP BUTTY SONG")

REEVES: This is called "The Greasy Chip Butty Song" and is set to a tune by John Denver. Listen to those voices and you'll understand why the great London Olympic chip ban matters. Let me explain. One of the major sponsors of the London Olympics is McDonald's. The organizers say McDonald's is their official restaurant partner. The Olympic Park in London has the world's biggest McDonald's. The deal comes with something on the side, a monopoly on the right to sell chips at Olympic venues.

No one, apart from McDonald's, can serve them unless - and here's a weird loophole - they come from outlets that serve them with fish. This ban upset workers building the set for the Olympics' opening ceremony. They didn't like being told by their caterers that they couldn't have chips with sausages or pies or eggs or in butties. The caterers got so many complaints they pinned up a notice, asking people to stop giving them grief. Eventually, Olympic officials persuaded McDonald's to waive the rules.

But the ban still applies to you when you visit the games in a couple of weeks. Don't be surprised if you run into some grumpy Brits. The British don't particularly like being bossed around. There's another factor here too. McDonald's chips - fries, if you prefer - may be fine in their own way, but their crisp and stringy little strips of carbohydrate bear about as much resemblance as a stick insect does to a garden slug to the big, fat-drenched, salt-caked, vinegar-soggy, limp-looking, traditional and utterly delicious British chip. A Brit would never put a fistful of McDonald's in a butty, and a Brit would never sing about them. Philip Reeves, NPR News, London.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE GREASY CHIP BUTTY SONG") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.