Should more have been done to involve farmers in the Olympics?

AHEAD of tonight’s (Friday) Olympic Games opening ceremony, Olivia Midgley asks is the showcase of Britain’s ‘green and pleasant land’ a missed opportunity for farming?

The Olympic Games opening ceremony has been criticised as a ‘wasted opportunity’ to reconnect farmers with the public at a time when the dairy industry is ‘on its knees’.

Hollywood film director and Olympics artistic director Danny Boyle’s vision will see the 80,000-seat arena in Stratford, East London, become a scene of England’s ‘green and pleasant land’, complete with farm animals and artificial ‘rain’.


But campaigner and founder of Farmers on Film, Sarah Gayton, who has been pushing for videos showing British farmers producing food for the Games to be aired during the event, said she was disappointed farmers were not being involved in the ceremony.

It follows comments made by CLA president Harry Cotterell, who said Boyle had created an ‘Astroturf Teletubby land for the Olympics’.

Ms Gayton, the Olympics co-ordinator for the Women’s Food and Farming Union (WFU) said: “On the one hand it is great the British countryside is being given centre stage during the Olympics, but it would have been better if they had involved more of the industry.

“They’ve missed a massive opportunity to engage with rural people at a time when farming needs it the most.”

Two years ago, Ms Gayton teamed up with 120 students from the University of Staffordshire to film farmers producing food in the run-up to London 2012.

As the campaign gathered pace, and with support from the Red Tractor Assurance Scheme, the group hoped the films would be shown on large public screens during the Olympics.

“Up until now we haven’t had any success, but we won’t give up,” said Ms Gayton.

“Four times gold medallist Matthew Pinsent and the Team GB coach tweeted me to say it was a fantastic idea and we’ve had a fantastic response from Defra and the NFU.”

The team was recently given fresh hope when organisers of the 2014 Commonwealth Games said they were interested in using the films.


“If the films are played out, they will showcase British agriculture and get people thinking about British agriculture,” said Ms Gayton.

“This is a great way of linking our farmers with the sportsmen and women who consume British farm produce.”

Plans for the opening ceremony, which will be broadcast live tonight (Friday) from 9pm, have been a closely-guarded secret by the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG).

A spokeswoman said proposals to use 12 horses, three cows, two goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, nine geese, 70 sheep and three sheepdogs would ‘carry on as planned’, despite pressure from animal rights groups to withdraw livestock from the spectacle.

Hoping the Olympics will promote the best of modern British farming

Young farmers have their say on what they believe the Olympics will bring to UK agriculture.

“I don’t think there is so much of a quantifiable benefit you can measure, but like the Royal Wedding last year, the Olympics has a huge community benefit, bringing people together. After the Games, all the facilities will benefit everyone. It gives me a warm patriotic feeling inside.”

James Williams, NFYFC national chairman

“I can’t wait to see the British countryside being portrayed in the opening ceremony to a worldwide platform. Let’s just hope it is done in a forward-thinking way with state-of-the-art farming technology and shiny tractors, rather than reverting back to Victorian Britain with horses and ploughs.”

Milly Wastie, Northamptonshire YFC and NFYFC vice-chairman

“Given the importance of global trade to agriculture, any event which highlights just how epic Britain is, is bang on in my books.  What I’m really looking forward to this summer isn’t Usain Bolt running the 100 metres in a zillionth of a second, but hopefully seeing policy-makers stepping up to the mark to help our dairy farmers.”

Aled Jones, Wales YFC

Food and catering for the Games

LOCOG said its Food Vision was developed through a Food Advisory Group, including: Defra, Food Standards Agency, NFU, GLA and Sustain (The Alliance for Better Food and Farming) and promised to showcase the ‘best of British food’.

How much food is needed?

  • 14 million meals
  • 25,000 loaves of bread
  • 232 tonnes of potatoes
  • 82 tonnes of seafood
  • 31 tonnes of poultry items
  • 100 tonnes of meat
  • 75,000 litres of milk
  • 19 tonnes of eggs
  • 21 tonnes of cheese
  • 330 tonnes of fruit and vegetables

LOCOG said it will source all food to these standards:

  • Red Tractor as standard across meat, fruit, vegetables, salads, cereals and dairy
  • All dairy products, beef, lamb and poultry to be British
  • McDonald’s committed to serve British chicken through its four branches, which will provide 9.8 per cent of food in the Olympic Park
  • Bananas, tea, coffee and sugar to be Fairtrade
  • Traditional British cheese, such as Cheddar, to be British
  • Eggs to be British Lion mark free-range
  • RSPCA Freedom Food Certified chicken to be available


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