So many major events rely on the kindness of sponsors – or at least their desire for the lucrative mutual promotion that official sponsorship brings – for necessary funding. But how closely do sponsors have to line up with the ideals of an event? That’s a question that’s being raised this year as the 2012 London Olympics draw near. A coalition of British doctors is calling out McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, two of the Olympics’ biggest sponsors, accusing them of trying to benefit from the Olympics’ reputation of health and athletics while contributing to the UK’s growing obesity problem.
This year, McDonald’s is celebrating its sponsorship with the opening of its largest ever franchise location in Olympic Park – its will also be able to sell its wares during the games and in the athlete’s village, while Coca-Cola has exclusive rights to sell non-alcoholic drinks on site. That said, this isn’t the first time that either has sponsored the Olympics. The fast food franchise has been an official sponsor of the games since 1976, most recently renewing its contract in 2004; the soft drink’s sponsorship dates back even further, having been involved with every Olympic Game since 1928.
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So why is there such an outcry this year more than others? It has a lot to do with a rising instance of obesity in the UK – HuffPo reports that nearly one-quarter of Britons are obese, and it’s estimated that those numbers could to 50 percent by 2030. With that in mind, doctors are worried that keeping on McDonald’s and Coca-Cola as major sponsors sends the wrong message:
"It's very sad that an event that celebrates the very best of athletic achievements should be sponsored by companies contributing to the obesity problem and unhealthy habits," said Terence Stephenson, a spokesman for the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges. The group is calling upon the British government to restrict advertising by McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Heineken during the Olympic Games, which are being held in London from July 27 to Aug.12.
So what does the International Olympic Committee have to say about all of this? It’s pretty simple, really – it’s not about whether the food it partners with is in line with a healthy athletic lifestyle. It’s about the money it takes to keep a massive undertaking like the Olympics up and running:
"Sponsors provide a huge amount of the funding required to stage the games," said a spokesman for the organizing committee in a statement. "Without our partners such as McDonald's, the games simply wouldn't happen."
So that’s that. What can be done? Nothing, for as long as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola have the kind of money the Olympics requires. So until healthier alternatives have the financial clout to compete with these sorts of global businesses, it looks like the Olympics will be running on burgers and soda for the foreseeable future.