New Olympic crisis: mascot factory shock

Olympic mascotsSteve Parsons/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Chinese activists have claimed that Olympic mascot toys of Wenlock and Mandeville are being made in sweatshops, where workers are on shifts of up to 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, sometimes in hazardous environments.

So just what are they claiming?

The claims

A group of activists in Hong Kong, called Sacom (Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour) have published a report claiming a long list of horrors at the factories producing the mascots. It has contrasted the whimsical tale behind the mascots - that they are made by a retired steel worker who had been working on the Olympic stadium - with the dire conditions that the toys are actually made in.

The toys are expected to make millions at the Olympics and sell for anything from £7 for a badge to up to £26 for a towel and soft toy set. But the glossy world of the gift shop is a long way from the conditions the report describes. It has said that workers are on shifts of up to 12 hours a day, working six days a week. It investigated four souvenir manufacturers in China and say they found a number of appalling conditions.

The conditions

This included factories where there was no minimum wage for workers - which meant workers could make as little as £6 a day - overtime payments were substandard and were often twice or three times the national standard - with workers sometimes staying until midnight. Wages were paid a month after the work was done.

In one factory, workers who fell asleep lost 2-4 hours wages, while at another any worker who was five minutes late for work would lose half a day's pay.

In some places the environment was found to be hazardous, including paint-spraying conditions that workers complained made them feel sick.


When LOCOG ran the official tendering process, it was clear that poor conditions would not be tolerated, and it issued ethical rules for suppliers. However, the activists said that the rules were being flouted. They called on the International Olympic Committee to put a system in place to protect workers producing goods for future Games.

According to the Guardian, a LOCOG spokesman responded to the report, saying: "We place a high priority on environmental, social and ethical issues when securing goods and services. Both factories that the report references have been reviewed by Locog. Locog recently instructed an independent audit of the Xinda factory and no such issues were found. Regarding the Shiwei factory, Locog has undertaken a full review of Golden Bear's [official supplier of Olympic merchandise for London 2012] ethical trade management systems. Golden Bear has now fully committed to implementing all recommendations of that review and is in process of reviewing all factories in its supply chain."

10 of the biggest consumer rip-offs
See Gallery
New Olympic crisis: mascot factory shock

Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.

To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.

At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.

It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.

With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.

No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.

Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.

Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.

While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.

Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.

However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
To avoid paying over the odds, it is also worth checking the price per kilo to ensure that larger 'economy' packs really are cheaper than the smaller versions.

Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.

However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.

Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.

Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.
Before signing up, it is therefore essential to check that you will make use of enough of the benefits, and that you cannot get them for less elsewhere.

Overseas money transfers or travel money purchases attract the same high rate of interest as credit card cash withdrawals.

Worse still, most credit cards – and debit cards – also charge you a foreign loading fee if you use them to make purchases while abroad.
You can, however, avoid these charges by using a Saga Platinum or Nationwide Building Society credit card.

Numbers starting 0871 cost 10p or more from a landline, while those starting 09 can cost more than £1 a minute from a mobile phone.

And the operators of these high-cost phone lines, some of which are banks, often get a cut of the call charges.
Most 09 numbers are linked to scams and should therefore be avoided at all costs, while 0871 numbers can often be bypassed by searching for an alternative local rate numbers on the

More stories

Read Full Story