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FIFA Women's World Cup: Water-bottle ban irks fans at Big O

06/16/2015 04:40 EDT | Updated 06/16/2016 05:59 EDT
With tickets to watch last Saturday's FIFA Women's World Cup doubleheader at the Olympic Stadium with her friends, Sara Berger Richardson said she didn't expect things to be so complicated at the entrance gate.

"They checked our bags, which I think is pretty standard for most events," Berger Richardson told CBC Daybreak host Mike Finnerty on Tuesday.

"But I was surprised that when they found my water bottle, they told me I couldn't enter the stadium with my water bottle."

Berger Richardson said security personnel gave her two options: exit the stadium, or leave the bottle at the entrance and take a numbered sticker that would allow her to pick it up after the game – the same way she would check her coat at a nightclub. 

"It was the most absurd thing I've ever seen in my life," Berger Richardson said. "[There was] a table full of – I don't know – 500 bottles."

Berger Richardson told stadium security she'd finish the bottle before entering the stadium in order to keep it, but she was then told that she would have to leave the stadium if she continued to hold up the line.

She initially thought they wanted to make sure that no alcohol was brought into the venue, but in fact, even an empty bottle was not allowed.

Security Protocol

FIFA Chief Stadium Officer Don Hardman said banning water bottles is standard practice at all Women's World Cup venues.

"In the unique case of international events like the Women's World Cup, sometimes the operating policies are a bit different than a typical sporting event," Hardman told Daybreak.

"It's partly for security for the fans coming to the stadium to ensure there are no prohibited items," Hardman said. "It's also working with brand protection as part of our overall program in hosting this event."

Hardman apologized and said FIFA is reviewing its security policy.

Stranded at the Big O

Once Berger Richardson agreed to check her water bottle and was allowed into the venue, she had to stay there for both the 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. games, since FIFA rules forbid re-entry into the venue.

"I thought that in between games, we would all leave and go do something for an hour or so and then return to the next game," she said. "But there was no possibility of leaving the stadium whatsoever."

Unable to leave, Berger Richardson's food options were limited to the stadium concession stands, which she says didn't offer much beyond junk food.

"If you're concerned about health, if you're vegan or have any kind of intolerances or have a different kind of diet, there was nothing in the fruit, vegetable [or] healthy range."

Berger Richardson left the stadium after the first game and didn't return for the second game she'd paid for.

Hardman said FIFA has no say over what food is sold in each venue.

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