Will London’s Olympic public health legacy turn to dust?BMJ 2012; 344 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e4207 (Published 21 June 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e4207
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We have the Olympics here in the UK for money making only. We are "a nation of shop keepers" but we have forgotten that in times gone by, we traded in goods produced by the sweat of the proletariat. Now we will have money pouring in, the London shop keepers, the producers of alcohol and fast foods will make millions. That obesity and liver disease will flourish is of no interest to the Chancellor, nor to the Olympians. We moan at the Afghans for growing and selling opium, we castigate the South Americans for smuggling cocaine in to our country. Yet we have no hesitation in promoting obesity and drunkenness in our own country. Perhaps our Lords Spiritual might have something to say?
Competing interests: Like to see true motives exposed.
Dennis Campbell questions whether the London Olympic Games will increase physical activity in the community, despite laudable aims and some good support programs. He cites Sebastian Coe’s words that, “London’s vision is to reach young people around the world. To connect them with the inspirational power of the Games”.1
While adults and young people alike around the world sit in front of television screens watching the wonders of the Games, many of the messages they receive will promote anything other than healthy activity.
The International Olympic Committee, under whose auspices the Olympic Games are run, produces marketing documents demonstrating beyond doubt the massive reach and influence of the Olympic Games and associated advertising. According to the IOC, one of the “fundamental objectives of Olympic marketing” is “to control and limit the commercialisation of the Olympic Games".2
The Olympics’ “Top Sponsors” include Coca-Cola and McDonalds. McDonalds is “The official restaurant of the Olympic Games”. 3 A special McDonalds has been constructed 300 metres from the Olympic Stadium4; McDonalds is already promoting its association with the Olympics heavily around the world through advertising campaigns; and while the Olympic Games website clearly recognises the incongruity of the association with a special FAQ on “Why are McDonalds a sponsor?”, the sole rationale appears to be that “McDonalds has been an “Official sponsor of the Olympic Games” since 1976”.5
Cadbury (“the official treat provider of the London 2012 Olympic Games”) is an “Olympic Partner”, and its associated company Trebor is a “Provider and Supplier”.3
Heineken UK is “Official Lager Supplier and sponsor of London 2012”6, and the international Heineken company is reported as hoping “to reach untapped audiences in emerging markets through its sponsorship of the Olympic Games”.7
Wines supplied by Bibendum have been nominated as the first “Official” Olympic wines since the modern games began in 1896 and will be sold at almost all Olympic venues.8
The IOC aims “to control sponsorship programmes to ensure that partnerships are compatible with the Olympic ideals”.2 It is reassuring in this context that the IOC does not accept commercial associations with tobacco products, but it is hard to fathom the reasoning behind a policy that excludes “alcoholic beverages (other than beer and wine)”.2 Why does the IOC not also want to protect children and young people from exposure to promotion for beer and wine, as well as spirits and other alcoholic products?
The Olympic Games will undoubtedly leave us with wonderful memories of sporting achievement. It is a sad reflection on the Olympic movement’s capitulation to unhealthy interests that “the inspirational power of the Games” will leave a legacy of junk food and alcohol promotion in association with sporting excellence and the Olympic ideals.
1. Campbell D. Will London's Olympic public health legacy turn to dust? BMJ 2012;344:e4207.
2. International Olympic Committee. Olympic Marketing Fact File 2012 Edition, 2012. http://www.olympic.org/Documents/IOC_Marketing/OLYMPIC-MARKETING-FACT-FI...
3. London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. London 2012 Olympic Partners, 2012. http://www.london2012.com/about-us/the-people-delivering-the-games/olymp...
4. Rebecca Smithers. World's biggest McDonald's to open for six weeks at 2012 Olympic site: WAToday.com.au, 2012 Jun 26. http://www.watoday.com.au/olympics/news-london-2012/worlds-biggest-mcdon...
5. London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Official London 2012 website, 2012. http://www.london2012.com/
6. Heineken. London 2012 signs Heineken as latest sponsor, Press release 2011 Feb 3. http://www.heineken.co.uk/media_detail.php?newsID=74
7. Simon Zekaria. Heineken sees Olympics boosting exposure in emerging markets: Capital.gr, 2012 Jun 22. http://english.capital.gr/News.asp?id=1538018
8. Jonathan Prynn. London Olympics 2012: Official wines chosen to make this year a vintage Games: London Evening Standard, 2012 Jun 25. http://www.standard.co.uk/olympics/olympic-news/london-olympics-2012-off...
Competing interests: No competing interests
Campbell is right to question whether the 2012 Olympic Games in London will fulfil its promise to increase young people’s participation in sport.  Unfortunately, the Government’s latest, Olympics-led messages for the public on physical activity and health are not fully informed by its own physical activity guidelines.
In June, the Department of Health for England launched Games4Life, a new campaign to inspire the nation to get active during this year’s “summer of sport”.  The Games4Life press release is organised around sport as entertainment, to be watched on TV: Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is “looking forward” to being a spectator this summer via TV. But it’s a pity the press release and associated notes completely ignore an important new feature of the current UK-wide physical activity guidelines, the explicit advice on sedentary (sitting) behaviour.  This omission is ironic given the focus on TV viewing for Games4Life.
1. Campbell D. Will London’s Olympic public health legacy turn to dust? ‘BMJ’ 2012;344:e4207. (21 June.)
2. Department of Health for England. All sport and no play? Press release 2012 June 11. mediacentre.dh.gov.uk/2012/06/11/all-sport-and-no-play.
3. Chief Medical Officers of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Start Active, stay Active: a report on physical activity from the four home countries' Chief Medical Officers. 2011 July 11. www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPoli....
Competing interests: No competing interests