WHEN it was announced the Olympic Torch would pass through Oxford, it was hoped the city would see a huge boost in business.
But traders hoping to make the most of a costly pitch at the official South Park event have accused organisers of squeezing the life out of it. According to stringent rules, anyone with a stall – which cost up to £1,050 – at the event on July 9 will have to cover up any names or branding promoting their product.
The rules, set out by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Game (LOCOG), state that: “Traders who are food vendors must cover up or have no visible brand names, logos or trademarks on display while trading at the event.
“This includes (but is not limited to) the trader’s stall, vehicle, signage and all related equipment.
“Food products should be sold in non-branded packaging.”
Traders can also only sell soft drinks that are sold exclusively from the Coca-Cola product range, including bottled water, and are banned from ‘promotional or marketing activity’ that claim an association with the Olympic Torch Relay or Games.
Oxford City Council said the restrictions on the Olympic Torch Relay Celebration – which runs from 3.30pm to 10.30pm – would be lifted from 7.30pm when LOCOG had gone.
A spokesman said: “We have to adhere to the LOCOG guidelines, which state the use of the Olympic rings, the London 2012 logo, the Olympic and Paralympic emblems and the word Olympic is restricted.
“We also have to adhere to their guidelines, which prohibits our stallholders from advertising within the LOCOG event.”
The rules were last night labelled ridiculous by traders.
Graham Jones, spokesman for the ROX traders’ association, said LOCOG’s regulations would leave the event ‘colourless’.
He said: “The point of having this kind of event around the country is so that you can get a flavour of the local area – something that says ‘this is Oxford’.
“This is like a cleansing exercise. It will leave the event blank.”
Aziz Ur-Rahman, who runs Aziz restaurant in Cowley Road, said: “It is ridiculous. I was thinking about having a stall but it seems pointless.”
Clinton Pugh, who owns Cafe Coco in St Clements, said: “I don’t know whether I will apply for a stall. The rules are absolutely ridiculous.”
But Max Mason, who founded the Big Bang restaurant in Jericho, said he did not see anything wrong with the rules.
Mr Mason, who was also picked to work as a diplomatic assistant during the Olympics after volunteering, said: “Maybe this is a bit ‘Big Society’ of me but I would just be proud to be involved.
“It wouldn’t be a marketing opportunity for me.”
City council leader Bob Price said: “The degree of detail does seem to be over the top. There’s no way you can police it to that level.
“From the council’s point of view we obviously hope that the event will be a great success and that local businesses will benefit from it “We just hope that the LOCOG people around are somewhat more lenient about what are quite stringent and restrictive rules.”
There are more than 44 sponsors of the Olympics, including Coca Cola, McDonalds, Deloitte and BMW, who have contributed more than £2bn.
A London 2012 spokesman said without sponsors the Games wouldn't happen.
He said: “They provide funding, products, services and expertise to help us stage the Games and with that have purchased exclusivity in their sector.
“We therefore ask suppliers who we pay for their products or services not to market their association with London 2012.”