Monday, February 17, 2014

Starbucks outlet smuggled into Sochi by NBC: Report

It's not an official sponsor of the Sochi Olympics — and strict rules ban it from having an official presence at the Winter Olympics — but that hasn't stopped Starbucks from sneaking a private outlet into the Olympic media center at Sochi compliments of NBC.

And it's no small operation either. The coffee shop has more staff than the delegations of some countries taking part in the games.

McDonald's is supposed to be the only branded coffee player at the Olympics with its McCafe outlets but hidden away inside NBC's cordoned-off section, intended specifically for NBC staff, there's a not-so-secret Starbucks.

It's never easy standing in the path of someone jonesing for their morning fix of a grande skinny carmel macchiato. 

The worldwide coffee chain runs 24-hours a day serving the 2,500 people NBC, which paid $775 million for exclusive U.S. broadcasting rights for the Games, has sent to the Olympic host city.

Keeping it going takes a fair share of caffeine as well.

NBC flies in a rotating crew of around 15 baristas from Starbucks coffee shops in Russia. It sets them up with accommodation in Sochi, and pays their regular wages.

NBC says its Starbucks doesn't break Olympic rules because it isn't open to the public. And the network reportedly keeps "pretty tight security" around the coffee spot, but notes that "we don't mind sharing a bit" with other broadcasters.

The International Olympic Committee is vigilant in keeping at bay brands that haven't paid for sponsor privileges.

In the past, markings on non sponsor brands of elevators, light switches and even thermostats have been covered up.

IOC representative Rachel Rominger told The Wall Street Journal that the NBC Starbucks isn't violating any rules.

She says the broadcasters can bring in "supplementary facilities," so long as the companies providing the services don't publicize or suggest any association with the Olympics.

McDonald's shrugged off the unofficial presence of its rival.

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