Contrary to claims by the British Prime Minister that government funding of the London Olympics is an investment in improved physical activity and public health, The Children’s Food Campaign (CFC) has accused games organisers of turning the event into a promotion of junk food. In support, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has accused sports stars, David Beckham and Gary Lineker of championing “obesity and poor health”. In a report, The Obesity Games, fast food sponsors were identified as being responsible for just 2% of International Olympic Committee income for the London games, yet Coca Cola, McDonald’s and Cadbury all have prominent positions in games branding.
“On the eve of the London Olympics we, a group with a vested interest in improving the health and well-being of young people, express our grave concern about this trend,” CFC said in an open letter.
“Food companies, well aware that such foods have little redeeming nutritional qualities, are able to trigger the so-called ‘halo’ effect by associating them with sport. Yet diet-related diseases are reaching global epidemic proportions. With one in three children in Britain overweight or obese by the age of nine, we have a public health crisis that requires urgent intervention.”
Signatories to the letter include Oliver, Prof Terence Stephenson, a past president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health; Steve Iredale, president of the National Association of Head Teachers; Charlie Powell, a director of the Children’s Food Campaign; and Dr Aseem Malhotra, a London cardiologist.
CFC co-ordinator Malcolm Clark said: “The Olympics have become a celebration of ‘big’. For the junk food companies who sponsor the Games, that means big restaurants, big audiences, big brand value, big profits. But for children that could also mean bigger waistlines and bigger health problems later in life.”
Coca-Cola responded by saying, “As one of the longest, continuous sponsors of the Olympic movement, we are proud that we are able to use our sponsorship to enable millions of people to experience the Games and believe we have a valid role to play. As well as sharing expertise, our financial support helps to stage London 2012, and without the support of the presenting partners the Olympic torch relay would not be able to take the magic of the Games to people in their own communities.