Duncan Mackay
David Owen_small1I made my first visit to the Westfield shopping-mall outside the Olympic Park this week, as well as the London 2012 shop at St Pancras station.

Six months or so before any Olympics tends to be when I feel most jaded about the whole affair: the trickle of mainly trivial announcements from those seeking to exploit their connection to the Games becomes a flood, yet the main event still seems a long way away.

So, from that perspective, the timing of my visit could perhaps have been better.

Nonetheless, I hope these comments will be seen as constructive rather than curmudgeonly.

First, the shop:

Well, I didn't buy anything.

But though prices for clothing seemed high (£60 for a lightweight dayglo yellow Adidas jacket with the London 2012 logo), I thought those for other items surprisingly reasonable: £7 for a London 1948 luggage tag; £13 for five "London 2012 Racers" (Matchbox cars if you're over 40).

Two things surprised me:

First, the quantity of Team GB merchandise, of which there seemed to be as much as items with the London 2012 brand.

There were, for example, two different Monopoly games, side by side.

"Own it all!" screamed the Team GB version. "Live the life of a high-flying trader in the fast-paced world of real estate."

The London 2012 version included "special edition commemorative movers", which put me in mind of Pickfords men in athletics vests.

London 2012_shop_St_Pancras
(I couldn't see whether players were given the opportunity to buy the Olympic Stadium, but, if they are, I expect the West Ham Board will get one. And while we're on the subject, what better present for Barry Hearn than a 1,000-piece jigsaw of the Stadium with, as it says on the box, "75 per cent less steel than other venues", whatever that means.)

The second surprise was the sheer range of items in stock, for which organisers are to be commended.

I'm not sure all of it hits the spot, however.

The 20cl drinks tumblers (£10 for a set of four) were, to my eye, completely hideous.

And is it really advisable to include a model Concorde in a set of "Great British Classics" in a shop adjacent to the Eurostar ticket-hall with its constant stream of French visitors?

Strange, by the way, how St Pancras is the one place I know of in London where you feel instantly transported to Continental Europe, and this only in small part because of the people speaking European languages you tend to find there.

Westfield Shopping_Centre_with_shoppers
As for Westfield Stratford, well, I can confirm it is a large and no doubt highly efficient shopping-mall, but, after all the hype, I did find myself thinking, to quote Peggy Lee, "Is That All There Is?"

That said, I wish it well because if London 2012 is to work for London - really work – we need this temple of consumerism to help attract people to the underprivileged east of the city and to spend time and money there.

This makes it a very significant building – arguably more so than the actual Games-related edifices.

There was one thing that truly annoyed me.

This was the way big screens seemed to be broadcasting incessantly the same three or four news items – one-in-four unqualified teens are out of work (or somesuch) was one of them; the Middleton sisters and One Direction featured in the other two – with every single item separated by a long stream of ads

But I also found there an encapsulation of both the strength and weakness of the Olympic business model, with its partial dependence on sponsorship by internationally recognised brands.

The weakness?

The Apple store, teeming with customers and staff in their cool blue T-shirts, nearly everyone standing.

If there were a gold medal for the world's coolest brand right now, I think it is indisputable that Apple would win it by about the same margin as Usain Bolt used to win his races.

Westfield Shopping_Centre_Apple_Store
Apple is not an Olympic sponsor.

Why would they be? Why pay Olympic-land's high entry price when they have already achieved pretty much everything anyone could ever want from a brand?

No, Olympic sponsorship, except for companies with local ties to a particular Games, is for those brands that still have work to do.

In one sense, this is perfectly fine: there will always be plenty of those.

But it means the Games may always be associated with brands with issues of one kind or another that they need to address.

The strength?

No more than 50 metres away from the money machine that Steve Jobs made, a large notice announces that a brand called Custo will be opening there in spring/summer 2012.

To be exact, what it says is that Custo Barcelona will be opening there.

If any retailer had thought it worth emphasising prior to 1992 in a similarly international setting that it was spawned in the capital of Catalonia, I'm Cesc Fabregas.

Now, Barcelona is the Apple of cities.

That's what the Olympics can do for you.

David Owen worked for 20 years for the Financial Times in the United States, Canada, France and the UK. He ended his FT career as sports editor after the 2006 World Cup and is now freelancing, including covering the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2010 World Cup. Owen's Twitter feed can be accessed here.