I’ve long been dismayed by stories emerging from the London 2012 Olympics, whether the elitist ticketing system, the redirection of funds from community projects or the sorry predictability of the games running over budget. However I finally felt compelled to write an article when I read the following alarming words:
“You can’t have chips at the Olympics, unless they’re McDonald’s chips, because McDonald’s now owns all the chips. As part of their sponsorship deal with LOCOG, the fast food company have apparently stipulated a chip monopoly.”
You can read more about this in the New Statesman here.
I was appalled… sickened that a corporation had been allowed to ‘own’ an entire food type. But McDonalds are paying to sponsor the Olympics, I hear you say. McDonald’s are not doing this out of the goodness of their giant charitable heart. They will make considerable profit – either directly through sales, or indirectly through building their brand. And let’s put their sponsorship into context. No sponsor has contributed more than £40 million towards the costs of the games (which could eventually total more than £11 billion!). So for exclusive fast food privilege McDonalds have contributed a whopping 0.0036% of the cost of the games. Of course it’s no surprise McDonalds want to protect their investment, but that doesn’t mean it’s morally right and they should be permitted to do so.
So should McDonalds be allowed a ‘chip monopoly’? Should they even be allowed to sponsor an event typifying health and fitness? For starters, there is widespread concern from the medical community about McDonalds being so closely aligned to the Olympics. Consider the fact that McDonalds ‘health range’, their salads, actually contain more calories than their burger meals. Consider also the increased costs to the NHS in years to come as result of their sponsorship, as well as the reduction in societal welfare, from the perpetuation of fast food culture. Now, moving on to the wider economy, consider the negative affect on local businesses which represents a cost to the economy, let alone the businesses themselves. Also consider the tax avoidance of mega-companies like McDonalds – again money being filtered away from the UK economy at a cost to the taxpayer. So that £40m is starting to look pretty lean.
Moreover, it’s a very sad state of affairs when we are even considering Olympic sponsorship in terms of the return on investment for the sponsor, rather than the benefits that sponsorship will bring to the nation. The Olympics as a whole will benefit such a tiny percentage of the population (and disproportionately the richer in society too) whilst drawing money away from valuable community projects which are already under strain from spending cuts. The Olympics could have been a wonderful event for our nation if it had been planned and delivered with the general population as the focus. What, sadly, it has become is nothing more than a debauched orgy of corporate-profiteering.
PS Due to public outcry, McDonalds have now slightly relaxed their chip monopoly – but only for staff working on opening and closing ceremonies.