Leading UK cardiologist Aseem Malhotra spoke out in July against the sponsorship of the London Olympics by junk food giants such as Burger King and McDonalds. The irony is that elite athletes are not created through the wolfing down of burgers, chips and excessive alcohol consumption.

Why are McDonalds the Official Olympics Sponsor?

LOCOG has always maintained a non-corporate sponsored Olympic games simply isn’t possible. The committee also claims that the sponsors provide adequate activity programmes to communities and a balance is struck between profit-making opportunity and ‘putting back’ into the community.

It may surprise some to find out that McDonalds has been an official Olympics sponsor since way back in ’76. Anyone taking the train past the Olympic park will have seen the green panelled box that forms the McDonalds Olympic branch – the largest restaurant in the world. McDonalds were recently forced to back down from claiming the exclusive right to sell chips to Olympics staff in and around Olympic venues. There was an outcry amongst the staff who would be working the ceremony for the right to consume chips after a day’s hard graft. McDonalds however still maintains chip exclusivity throughout the rest of the park and the media centre.

Further Problems

It’s not just the health deteriorations in junk food that’s the issue. It was recently revealed that McDonalds received tax breaks in exchange for sponsoring the Olympics games, alongside fellow vendor Coca Cola and also non-food corporations like Samsung. Outrage erupted when it was publicised that the UK could potentially be giving away tens of millions of pounds that it could be using to fund its public services.

For their part, the fast food pushers are maintaining that they offer ‘choice’. Coca Cola has issued a press release saying that they intend to serve their widest sever selection of drinks, including still water, juices and smoothies alongside their more famous offerings of sugar-laden fizzy drinks. McDonalds have promised to serve “high quality, British food, quickly and safely.” McDonalds is a perhaps at the centre of a global storm over corporate responsibility for public health. Are they to blame for public obesity or should the health profession expect more claims from medical negligence lawyers?

How Do You Feel?

Do you think it’s OK to promote junk food and athleticism at the same national event? How do you feel about multinationals being given tax breaks? We’re sure that the debate over junk food and advertising is sure to continue way into the future and wonder if junk food sponsorship at sporting events might one day go the way of the tobacco industry (i.e. extinct). Perhaps you’re attending the London Olympics and you’re worried about the high food prices inside the venues. Tell us your thoughts.

Nadia Suleiman is a food writer living in London.