Georgina Guedes

Feeding the beast

2012-05-03 13:01

Georgina Guedes

The Academy of Royal Medical Colleges has come out strongly against McDonalds being a sponsor of the London 2012 Olympics - especially in a nation that struggles against obesity. Also coming under fire are sponsors Coca-Cola and Heineken.

“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 Royal Medical Colleges spokesperson Terence Stephenson.

I don't drink Coca-Cola or eat McDonald's often by choice. My exceptions can be summed up in two concepts, respectively: “hangovers” and “the convenience of drive-throughs”. Other than that, these comestibles rarely feature on any menu I might imagine.

Except when I attend big sporting or concert events, and find my consumption limited by what's on sale within the venue. Then I will grudgingly have to quaff a Cola or bolt a burger to stave off starvation, but I do this with “lang tande”.

Something else offered by McDonald's in the UK in particular, is affordability. Over Easter, I met a friend's mum who told us how she'd gone to visit family in the UK and had eventually had to beg to be taken to McDonald's for the sake of her wallet. Her scandalised family agreed.

I had a similar debate with friends when we travelled to London years ago. I wanted to sample a slice of local fare - it's all part of the travelling experience for me - but my friends' plan for sticking to our budget involved eating McDonald's three times a day. While McDonald's has never been a treat for me, it soon became an outright torment as we popped through Golden Arch after Golden Arch.

However, I am sympathetic to the notion of affordability, which is why when I heard that McDonald's estimate that one in 10 people that visit London's Olympic Park will visit their Golden Arches, I was surprised that it was so low. With the stranglehold that sponsors usually have on sales in sporting events, I can't imagine there will be too much else on offer.

It has to be admitted that whatever pretence the fast food vendor makes of selling salad, their food is inherently grease-laden and unhealthy. There is a huge disconnect between the celebration of athleticism and the punting of fast food to increasingly obese observers.

But this is where the viscous circle comes into play. The only reason that McDonald's, Coca-Cola, et al have the clout and the capital to sponsor such an event is because of their unerring popularity with the population. So, the advertising of such an event will continue to feed the beast of consumerism, ensuring their popularity and sponsorship of future events.

While it is possible that a truly responsible government might curtail the sponsorship opportunities offered to such organisations, for now, this is how the model works and they're going to stick to it. I applaud the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges for the stand that they're taking against the hypocrisy and in the name of good health, but wish them all the best in doing anything other than highlighting an important issue.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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