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Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Olympic Eating: How Fast Is Your Food?

9 million hungry visitors will be descending on London in the coming weeks. Do fast food and fast runners belong in the same place?

Stacks of different-colored Coke boxes arranged to create an image of the Olympic rings.

Photo: Zoomar (Flickr)

The nutritional profile of a can of Coca-Cola isn't exactly healthy.

You Want Fries (Without Fish) With That?

Coca-Cola has been a major sponsor of the Olympic Games since 1928 and McDonald’s since 1976. Both will be major sponsors again this year.

In fact, Coca-Cola will be the only company selling beverages in the Olympic Village. McDonald’s, meanwhile, has evoked much ire by pressuring Olympic chiefs to prohibit other vendors from serving fries, unless they’re part of a fish and chips ensemble.

Campaign For A Fast-Food Ban

The prominence of companies like McDonalds and Coca-Cola has angered health experts who feel associating the Olympics — an event focused on athleticism and good health — with the pernicious effects of fast food sends a mixed message to audiences.

While Coke has responded by saying it expects 75 percent of its revenue at the games to come from sales of water, juice and sugar-free beverages, McDonald’s has asserted it’s not the responsibility of corporations or governments to decide what individual consumers may eat.

Sustainable McDonald’s… Sort Of

McDonald’s 32000-square-foot flagship location in the Olympic Village is the largest in the world, and the company has drawn attention to the gigantic location’s many green features like an energy-efficient kitchen, water-saving faucets, a streamlined layout and payment system, and facilities for customers to sort recyclable and compostable waste.

When it is torn down in September, following the closing of the Paralympic Games, 75 percent of the building’s materials will be re-used.

In accordance with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games’s sustainability pledge, McDonald’s will be sourcing all of its beef from UK sources.

Thanks to an exemption, however, 90 percent of its chicken will come from overseas.

A Necessary Evil?

In early July, the London Assembly passed a measure encouraging the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban sponsors that sell high-calorie food and drinks.

Realistically, though, large scale corporate support is essential to make sure the Games remain financially solvent.

Companies pay $100 million for The Olympic Partner (TOP)-level sponsorship. They were responsible for $866 million in revenue for the IOC between 2005 and 2008.

Read More:

  • McDonald’s Force Olympics Bosses To Ban All Restaurants From Selling Chips… Unless They’re Served With Fish (Daily Mail)
  • London 2012: “Break Fast Food Link With Olympics,” Says Medical Chief (BBC)
  • Updated: McDonalds Exemption From Olympics’ Sustainable Food Standards Sparks Green Anger (BusinessGreen)
  • The Movement To Ban McDonald’s, Coca-Cola From The London Olympics (Time)


Sarah Gordon

Sarah Gordon has been interested in food ethics since she was 15, learned about industrial slaughter, and launched into 10 years of vegetarianism. These days, she strives to be a conscientious omnivore. Now a PhD candidate in folklore, her research has caused her to spend a lot of time in the remote Canadian sub-arctic, where the lake trout (sustainably harvested) tastes amazing.

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