Amid concerns of soaring obesity rates in the UK, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge admits "question mark" over McDonald's and Coca-Cola sponsoring the Olympic Games.
But he told The Financial Times last week that while it wasn't an easy decision, the organization needed the sponsors' financial support for backing sport at "grassroots levels," and that the money can support the continued survival of both the Games and national teams.
Rogge said: "'For those companies, we've said to them: 'Listen, there is an issue in terms of the growing trend on obesity, what are you going to do about that?'" He cited McDonald's offering healthier menu options, along with Coca-Cola's zero-calorie drinks, as proof that the companies are taking public health into account.
McDonald's has four restaurants in London's Olympic Park, including its biggest in the world, which can seat 1,500 people. Back in January, the fast food giant extended its 36-year backing of the Games by signing up as a sponsor for the next eight years. Coca-Cola, a sponsor since 1928, has also signed up until 2020.
"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. In May, the UK group called upon the British government to restrict advertising by McDonald's, Coca-Cola, and Heineken during the Olympic Games.
"Sponsors provide a huge amount of the funding required to stage the games," a spokesman for the organizing committee told the Christian Science Monitor. "Without our partners such as McDonald's, the Games simply wouldn't happen."
But that doesn't change the stats: about 25 percent of Britons are obese, with experts estimating that the rates could soar to 50 percent by 2030. Obesity and related health ailments cost the UK health system about 4 billion pounds ($6.5 billion) every year, according to the Christian Science Monitor report.
"These brands are using the Olympics to be associated with medals and svelte, fit athletes," Stephenson added in the statement. "They don't want us to think of fat, unhealthy people when we think of their products."