Apparently we aren’t the only ones struck by the irony of McDonald’s massive presence at this year’s Olympics; UK doctors also find serious fault in the fast food chain’s sponsorship of London’s upcoming summer games. Citing their country’s worrisome obesity levels, doctors doubt selling athletics with a side of Big Mac sends the right message; unfortunately, Olympic organizers say carrots and celery just don’t have enough dollars to back the event.
McDonald’s will be the only restaurateur allowed to sell branded food in London’s Olympic Park, churning out Big Macs, fries, and milkshakes from three locations in addition to their special athlete’s village restaurant, and the 2-story, 1,500-seat location set to open for the games. Coca-Cola and Heineken are the games’ official beverage sponsors, which…doctors aren’t super pumped about.
The Academy of Royal Medical Colleges is calling for limits on advertising by McDonald’s and the other brands; spokesman Terence Stephenson explained the obvious reasoning:
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.
Olympic organizers are defending their sponsors with sheer economics. A spokesman’s statement reads:
Sponsors provide a huge amount of the funding required to stage the games. Without our partners such as McDonald’s, the games simply wouldn’t happen.
Which is kind of hard to refute (after all, organic farmer’s aren’t exactly rolling in cash these days). But the statement goes on to confirm what everyone’s afraid of:
These brands are using the Olympics to be associated with medals and svelte, fit athlete. They don’t want us to think of fat, unhealthy people when we think of their products.
Associating fast food with medals and svelte athletes may not be the best thing for a country that, like the U.S., is struggling with a rapid increase in obesity and related health problems. To those who’d say that no amount of advertising will convince anyone that McDonald’s is healthy, doctors cite research on the psychological impact of ads. Nilli Lavie, a professor of psychology and brain sciences at University College London, says that the Olymic sponsorship could cause a spike in fast food consumption, even in people who wouldn’t otherwise be tempted:
We cannot simply decide not to process (an ad), there is a subliminal association that is made that may affect your behavior in the future.
Some estimate that obesity costs the U.K. health system about 4 billion pounds ($6.5 billion) per year; unlike the Olympic games, McDonald’s isn’t footing the bill.
Do you think the sponsorship is wrong?