Shopkeeper forced to take down Olympics decorations by “heavy-handed” officials
Council chiefs have been slammed as Olympic killjoys by a Stoke Newington shopkeeper who was forced to take down his Games-themed bunting and street decorations just hours before the torch relay ran through Hackney on Saturday.
Shaken newsagent Hamdy Shahein, who spent �250 decorating Hamdy’s News with colourful flags, balloons, and bunting, said he was so upset by “heavy handed” officials he nearly shut up shop and went home.
“I wanted to make the shop look nice for the community,” Hamdy said. “Then a lady came up to me and almost grabbed my hand. She said, ‘stop, stop, you can’t do this!’
“I had no idea why, and said, ‘you don’t have to be so horrible and heavy-handed’.
“Then people in the crowd outside joined in and said, ‘leave him alone – he’s doing something nice for the community’.”
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The Trading Standards officers accused the newsagent of having unofficial branded products at the shop in Stoke Newington High Street, but Hamdy insists the decorations were bought legitimately from a licensed wholesaler.
He said: “About an hour later a police van with six policemen stopped outside and the lady and two men came over and said, ‘that’s him’.
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“Then I had to take some of the stuff down.
“Those decorations weren’t cheap, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event and I wanted to do something nice for people. I also gave out 150 flags, worth �1 each, to children for free.
“It was so unfair - I was going to put the shutters down, close the shop and go home.”
Eventually, bystanders convinced Hamdy to stay and he says he was able to enjoy the rest of the day.
But he added: “It’s unacceptable. The way I’ve been treated is not right at all.”
A spokesman for Hackney Council said: “Officers determined that unofficial Olympic-branded bunting was on display and for sale in the shop and on nearby railings. The store manager was asked to remove it and advised to withdraw it from sale on that basis.
“Like every other local authority, Hackney Council is adhering to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games’ guidance on Olympic branding and merchandise.”
He confirmed that other traders in Hackney who did not have officially recognised memorabilia also had goods seized or removed from shop displays that day.