IOC head questions McDonald's, Coke sponsorship

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    George Square awaits the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Special City Celebration in Glasgow, presented by Coca-Cola at George Square on June 8, 2012 in Glasgow, Scotland.

    - Martin Grimes/Getty Images

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    Ronald McDonald at the launch of the new McDonald's restaurant in the casual dining section of the Athlete's Village in Homebush, Sydney, Australia.

    - Nick Laham/ALLSPORT

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    A neon signs of Olympic sponsor Coca Cola glows bright on a dark wall during the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain.

    - Allsport Sponsor Services

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    Representatives carry Coca-Cola backpacks near the Olympic village during the Atlanta games in 1996.

    - Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

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    Track and field athlete Chaunte Lowe of the United States performs a high jump demonstration during the Team USA Road to London 100 Days Out Celebration in Times Square on April 18, 2012 in New York City.

    - Chris Trotman/Getty Images for USOC

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    A general view of the McDonald's restaurant inside the Olympic Park during the Sainsbury's 2012 U.K. School Games at the Olympic Stadium on May 9, 2012 in London, England.

    - Julian Finney/Getty Images

Jeff Horwich: International Olympic Committee president Jacque Rogge is in a sticky spot. The Financial Times asked him whether he sees any problem with having McDonald's and Coke sponsor the world's biggest exposition of physical fitness. Rather than finesse a non-answer, the interesting thing is that he said "yes."

Marketplace's Stephen Beard is here live with more on the story. Hello, Stephen.

Stephen Beard: Hello Jeff.

Horwich: So is Rogge saying he regrets allowing McDonald's to sponsor the games?

Beard: No, but he's clearly not 100 percent happy about it. He said it wasn't an easy decision because of the global obesity crisis. But in the end, he said his first priority is the Olympic movement, and he says they need the cash to ensure the survival Olympic sports, and some national Olympic teams.

Horwich: And just how much cash are we talking about here?

Well, we don't have an exact breakdown. The 11 global sponsors have so far stumped up around $1 billion between them. That figure, though, is dwarfed by the broadcasting rights, which have so far raised about $4 billion from these games.

Horwich: McDonald's has sponsored the Olympics for 36 years now. This seems like a pretty essential contradiction between athletics and fatty foods. Why is this coming up now?

Well, I think it's because it's becoming more of an issue now that the obesity crisis worsens. And there are more health groups campaigning now on this issue; they've been critical of the McDonald's sponsorship.

Tam Fry of Britain's National Obesity Forum claims McDonald's mostly sells an unhealthy product and should not be associated with the Games.

Tam Fry: The Olympics is such a jewel that the sponsorship of that jewel should come from companies that have a really very high profile attitude towards health and nutrition. And I would not give McDonald's the credit for that.

In a statement, McDonald's said obesity is a complex issue, and ultimately it's up to individuals to make the right choice.

Horwich: Stephen Beard in London, thanks very much.

Beard: OK Jeff.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the London Bureau Chief, providing daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.


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