Jess Telsnig

MSC intern from Durham University

What the 2012 London Olympics did for the oceans

November 5, 2012

As the autumn descends on London, it feels like an age since the Olympics finished. Yet, in the foodservice arena, their effects are still being felt and an event in the last week looks set to be one of the best examples yet of the London Olympics bringing about change in the foodservice sector: The first catering supplier to get certified because they were inspired by the Olympics.

The enduring theme throughout the build-up to London 2012 was ‘Legacy’ and seafood sourcing was hailed as one of the great contenders for legacy gold. With around 14 million meals served throughout the Games, organisers of London 2012 (LOCOG) had been working hard to create ‘the greenest Games yet’ through (in part) the London 2012 Food Vision. For seafood, this stipulated that caterers must only use demonstrably sustainable sourced fish, including MSC certified fish wherever possible. 

LOCOG also decided to display the MSC ecolabel on menu boards throughout the Games – something that proved very popular! This is particularly important because, according to MSC research, two thirds of people are concerned about falling fish stocks but often they are confused about which fish are sustainable.  Having the MSC ecolabel on menus achieved two things:

- Firstly, for caterers and suppliers it showed that it is possible to source sustainable fish for large scale events.
- Secondly, it demonstrated to the millions of Games' fans that they can choose to eat sustainably when they eat out as well as buying packaged products.

So, what about that catering supplier? Simsons Fisheries Sustainability Advisor, Philippa Raven, made it clear: “We chose to get Marine Stewardship Council certification as – following the London 2012 Olympics – we wanted to offer certified sustainable fish to a wide range of our customers.”

That’s exactly the sort of commitment that LOCOG and their (many) stakeholders in the NGO community were hoping for as a food legacy. Established in the 1970s, Simsons supply fish all over London and the South East (they even do retail deliveries so you can order at home). That will open up the chance to buy MSC certified fish to all of their customers.

Looking further afield, there are encouraging signs that the seeds planted by the Food Vision are continuing to grow, The Food Legacy programme, was established to help caterers realise the Food Vision, and it asked businesses across the UK to commit to using sustainably sourced food. A broad cross-section of contract caterers, LEA's and restaurants have already signed up to the Food Legacy and the Sustainable Fish City Pledge. As a result, many of them are now looking at MSC certification or – in some cases – are already MSC certified.

With London’s Food Legacy beginning to make itself felt, there’s one important question remaining: Can Rio do even better?

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