The Childrens’ Food Campaign says chance to create a positive health legacy from London 2012 has been squandered
Health campaigners are urging the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban junk food and fizzy drink brands from future sporting sponsorship deals in a critical new report which says the committee has squandered the chance to create a positive health legacy from the London 2012 Games.
The Obesity Games report, published by The Childrens’ Food Campaign (CFC), found that corporate sponsorship accounts for less than 10% of the total funding for the London 2012 Games, while fast food sponsors contribute only about 2% of the IOC income. Yet the major sponsors Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Cadbury are given an unrivalled platform to promote their unhealthy brands and products, it says.
The CFC is calling for the IOC to help tackle rising obesity levels by setting conditions on promoting healthy eating in their sponsorship deals and for junk food brands to be excluded.
The findings will trigger fresh criticism of the stranglehold on food and drink at the Games held by sponsors Cadbury, McDonald’s (its largest restaurant in the world is in the Olympic Park) and Coca-Cola, which is expected to serve 23m soft drinks at the Games due to its near-monopoly at Olympic venues.
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.”
He said the IOC could decide to cut out the top-tier category of food and soft drink partners entirely and lose little more than 2% of its total income.
Coca-Cola said: “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.
“People consume many different foods and drinks, so no one single food or drink alone is responsible for people being overweight or obese. We believe all of our drinks can be enjoyed as part of an active, healthy lifestyle that includes a sensible, balanced diet and regular physical activity.”
McDonald’s said: “Sponsorship is essential to the successful staging of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and we’re proud of our involvement with London 2012.”
Ian Barber, the director of communications at the Advertising Association, said: “Much analysis has been done about advertising’s link with our obesity problem. Prof David Buckingham – an independent expert – sums it up when he says, ‘the impact, if any, is small’.”
Tony Blair says his wife played a big part in securing Olympic Games for London by schmoozing lesser-known IOC members
Cherie Blair was instrumental in securing the 2012 Olympic Games for London, having quietly lobbied many of the less well-known International Olympic Committee delegates, according to her husband, the former prime minister.
The success of the bid was previously put down to a number of prominent people, including Ken Livingstone, Sebastian Coe and David Beckham, and Cherie Blair’s role may come as a surprise to many.
Tony Blair told Murnaghan on Sky: “It was the strangest electorate that I have ever had to deal with, because it is just about 120 people.
“Strangely, my wife played a very big part in this really because, of the 120, some were the great and the good and were very well known, and then you had the others who worked in sports administration and they were also on the committee,” he said.
Blair said that his wife, known professionally as Cherie Booth, had travelled abroad to speak to some of the less well-known delegates to help secure their votes. London was officially declared the 2012 Games host on 6 July 2005.
“People tended to make a big fuss of all of the big names but everyone had the same vote. My wife was very good at going to different countries and seeing people who were the less significant people. By the time we got to Singapore, we actually knew these people, I met them and was talking to them,” he said.
Blair’s comments came as Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, toured television studios to insist that the city was as prepared as any previous hosts five days before the start of the Olympic Games. He put negative headlines about security and concerns about transport and congestion down to collective last-minute nerves.
On BBC’s Andrew Marr show, he said: “There have been concerns and some at G4S have much to answer for.
“If you look at what [IOC president] Jacques Rogge said last night, he thinks our city is as prepared as any city in the history of the Olympic Games and I think that’s a great tribute to all of the people from Locog, the ODA and all the people behind it.
“What we are going through as a nation and a city is that pre-curtain-up moment of psychological self-depression before the excitement begins on Friday when the curtain goes up. It is only natural that people should be tense and expectant and there are loads of things we need to get right.
“The G4S staff, who by the way I think we should distinguish from the £800,000-a-year G4S bosses, are doing a fantastic job, they are working very well with the military and it looks great.
Johnson called on PCS union members who voted to strike on Thursday, the day before the Games begin, to return to work.
“I don’t think whatever they do it will disrupt our ability to get people safely through to wherever they need to go. I think that if you look at the numbers who voted for a strike its a very poorly supported strike and that we have the contingencies in place to ensure that the Games carry on,” he said.
He also claimed that the Games would be very good for Britain’s economy. “This is a gigantic schmoozathon. I defy those who say that this will not be good for Britain’s economy,” he said.
How much are companies pouring into sponsoring London 2012? We’ve compiled the first list of how much they are spending
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Who is footing the London 2012 sponsorship bill?
Thanks to the London 2012 site, we know who the sponsors are – but what we haven’t had so far is what the individual deals are worth. This is, says London 2012, “confidential commercial information”. So, we’ve been forced to put it together ourselves.
Based on our reporting, this is how it comes out:
It’s not straightforward, of course. There are several different types of sponsors. Firstly, there’s the worldwide sponsors – these are the 11 big companies such as Coca Cola, who sponsor the games to the tune of around $100m through the International Olympic Committee. They include Dow’s controversial sponsorship of the wrap that will surround the stadium. Also, some of the IOC worldwide numbers include more than one game. Then there are the London 2012 ‘tier one’ partners, such as Adidas, BT and BMW, who each pay around £40m – there are seven of these. That’s followed by anotehr seven “supproters” who pay £20m and then 28 “suppliers” who pay around £10m
Meanwhile, we report today that spome of the sponsors are coming under pressure over their tax breaks:
Visa is coming under increasing pressure to publicly waive tax breaks handed to major Olympic sponsors after two of the biggest backers of the Games promised to pay the UK Exchequer. McDonald’s and Coca Cola both said yesterday that they would decline relief handed to the 11 “worldwide” sponsors of the Games, meaning that the profits made from selling burgers and fizzy drinks to spectators in the Olympic park will now be taxed
The row over Olympic taxes comes against a backdrop of the bill for London 2012 being funded by around £1bn of sponsorship, which includes £700m raised locally by the organising committee and a further £700m contribution from sponsorship and broadcast revenues from the IOC.
Interestingly, it might not even be that effective for most of the sponsors. Brand Republic reported recently that many people have no idea who’s sponsoring the Olympics – for instance, 16% of those surveyed think Tescos is a sponsor, which it’s not. Similarly, Canon, Carlsberg, Sky and mobile phone company Orange were all erroneously cited as sponsors.
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London 2012: Despite our anxieties, the Olympics will be a force for good in Britain | Observer editorial
Rain, the G4S security fiasco, a cracked flyover, officials selling tickets on the black market… all this and more, yet the Games are set to be a triumph
In February this year, a team from the International Olympic Committee made their tenth and final visit to inspect and assess preparations for the 2012 “Games of the XXX Olympiad” due to begin in 12 days. The Games will embrace 26 sports in 34 venues across the country, involving more than 16,000 athletes watched by 11 million spectators and billions more around the globe. The cost to the public purse has risen over seven years from £2.5bn to more than £9bn. The IOC’s verdict is that it is money well spent. “London is ready to host the world,” it declared boldly.
Events over the past week or so have injected more than a modicum of doubt into that enthusiastic assertion – while raising questions about a lack of political leadership. A series of crises have occurred that appear all the more alarming both because of their proximity to the Games’ opening on 27 July and also, perversely, because the previous seven years of planning and delivery, under the stewardship of Lord Coe, have gone mostly smoothly.
First, a crack in a flyover on the M4 risked putting London’s most important Olympic route in jeopardy. Then, the ongoing issue of inadequate immigration staffing at Heathrow resulted in the public relations disaster of arrival lounges packed with visitors queueing for up to two hours and no staff in sight despite a ministerial promise that this would not happen. Most disturbingly, and still ongoing, is the security fiasco caused by the mismanagement of the international company G4S in failing to meet its target of providing up to 17,500 guards for the Olympic Park. As a result, 3,500 military personnel have had to be shipped in, many facing redundancy and forfeiting well-earned holidays, as well as extra police reinforcements. Ian Swales, of the House of Commons public accounts committee, has criticised G4S for charging “colossal fees” for “very poor service”. On Tuesday the G4S chief executive, Nick Buckles, explains the company’s latest public sector calamity (it lost its contract to deport refused migrants last year after one death and 773 complaints of abuse) to the home affairs select committee.
Boris Johnson, mayor of London, has told us glibly this is a case of “pre-curtain jitters” before the “very safe, very secure” Games begin. He is almost certainly correct, but what was needed was not flippant Boris-lite but a strong ministerial reminder of the uplifting mission and potential long-term rewards of London 2012. Jeremy Hunt, the Olympics minister, has been in purdah since his appearance at the Leveson inquiry and David Cameron, perhaps wishing to distance himself from yet another potential shambles, has conspicuously failed to fill the political void. Well, at a time when the eyes of the world are on London, someone needs to.
The prime minister could still rise to the occasion and give a clear explanation for the “jitters” and, as importantly, provide a spirited narrative about the world-class athleticism and human endeavour to come. He could pause to praise the admirable response of more than 70,000 volunteers (“big society”, anyone?) and the fortitude of the local East End community, disrupted for the past seven years. He could remind us that Britain has faultlessly delivered world-class stadiums on what was a toxic industrial wasteland. He could talk of the hope we all have that this redevelopment will help regenerate one of the poorest parts of Britain. Instead, what we have this weekend are reminders to the public of the cost of the Games and the potential vulnerability of the host city.
Critics remain convinced that the London Olympics is worth its weight in gold, but only if you count the bounty that will accrue to the corporate sponsors – among them McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, whose brazen appearance in the Olympic Park seems, at best, incongruous.
The commercialisation of the Games is not of London’s making – it’s a pact that any bidding city signs up for. The IOC insists that the candidate cities must sign a contract, described as an “epic masterpiece in micro-management”. It stipulates IOC transportation in exclusive “Zil” traffic lanes in 500 air-conditioned chauffeured limousines and accommodation in 1,800 four- and five-star hotel rooms. It also demands that the Olympics are a tax-free haven so the 18 Olympic partners won’t have to pay £600m tax on the £2.5bn they are expected to harvest.
What the contract does not do is confront the IOC’s continued association with corruption. Last month, for example, 27 Olympic officials and agents were caught selling tickets for London 2012 on the black market.
Critics also voice concerns that the public money invested in the monumental regeneration of the East End (75p in every £1 spent by the Olympic development authority) will benefit the already affluent, with jobs going to outsiders and housing beyond the price of locals. In addition, although the Games are sited across Britain, many non-Londoners view them as a purely capital city bonanza. In a BBC poll last week, 74% said the rest of the UK would not benefit and 59% thought the taxpayer had footed too large a bill.
Add to that cavalcade of criticism the daily thrum of unrelenting rain and the appalling neglect of school sports (a squandered Olympic legacy) and it might appear that there are very few reasons to be cheerful about London 2012.
The Observer disagrees.
Of course there are caveats, including profound concerns about security; the IOC’s “vanity” modus operandi; excessive commercialisation and inequities such as highly restricted ticketing that has locked out many ordinary people. But, uncharacteristically in Britain, let’s look at the upsides.
The planning and execution of the London Olympics, delivering impressive transport connections, including the high-speed rail from King’s Cross to Stratford. Completing infrastructure on time and £1bn under the adjusted budget. And, most importantly, the longer-term, meticulously planned legacy transforming an area that has suffered decades of shameful neglect. All these add up to an achievement of which Britain has a right to be proud.
And that is even before the Games commence, bringing with them a potential tally of medals accrued by our many young athletes, among them 15-year-old Rebecca Tunney, Tom Daley and Jessica Ennis. Over the past several months they have done so much to rebalance the almost wholly negative media coverage of youth. So, hopefully, we are on the threshold of a much needed 17-day holiday in optimism for Britain, an historic event that has its roots seven years ago in the quality of Britain’s original bid and a promise “to inspire a generation”.
In Singapore, in 2005, Team GB included 30 children from London’s East End; David Beckham, Ken Livingstone, then mayor of London, and a typically crowd-pleasing performance from Tony Blair. London stole victory from the favourite, Paris, by only four votes. Lord Coe, two times gold medal winner, said he had won “the biggest prize in sport”. Tessa Jowell, then minister for culture, media and sport, deserves credit as the godmother of London 2012. Against almost total cabinet opposition, and the professional judgment of economists she hired to conduct a feasibility study, Jowell persevered, allied with Ken Livingstone. Both believed that the Olympics could deliver to the highly deprived boroughs of Newham, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Hackney, Greenwich and Barking and Dagenham, “60 years of regeneration in six”.
The 200-hectare site designated as the Olympic Park had the equivalent of 10 football pitches of Japanese knotweed; acres of fly-tipping; landfill and contaminated soil. The Queen visited in 2005 and viewed a mini-mountain of discarded fridges where the Velodrome is now sited. It is telling that while G4S has been handed bags full of public money without apparent scrutiny, targets or penalties, in contrast the Olympic development authority (ODA) has been transparent on goals, challenges and delivery. In the process it has created local jobs, training and apprenticeships.
Contracts have also been spread across the UK. Every public pound has worked hard trying to retain a senior partnership with private investment. While new techniques have been pioneered, from burying pylons to washing 2m tons of toxic soil to recycling and design, this is a remarkable story that has yet to be fully told. At London 2012, for the first time in Olympic history, the legacy plans were initiated three years before the Games began. That is a powerful blueprint for future Games.
Could more have been done for the East End community? Undoubtedly, but there are the next 30 years to make that good. The Observer would like to see an independent watchdog with clout established to ensure that this is the case. “Convergence” is a plan to improve a range of issues in the six boroughs – for instance, in education, employment, poverty and health – and bring standards up to the level of the rest of London. In July next year the Olympic site will reopen as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Six of the eight permanent venues are secure. The stadium goes out to tender again in the autumn; on Tuesday, it is likely that its agreed the press and broadcast centre will become home to iCity, a digital university, enterprise hub, broadcaster and provider of the first digital apprenticeship scheme.
Effort has been made in regeneration to treasure the past, not ensure its obliteration. Over the next three decades, 11,000 new homes (35% “affordable” housing) will be built. Homes, not high-rise apartments. Homes with gardens built into a new living community in the Park. All of these are reasons to cheer.
Twelve days hence we shall judge whether the imaginative appointments of Danny Boyle and Stephen Daldry will produce a multimillion pound opening ceremony that sets a benchmark for creativity. London 2012 has already proved that, for a tiny island with a population of 60 million or so, we are far from slow off the blocks. Last week the ODA published its final report. In The Finishing Straight, Sir John Armitt wrote: “At every turn since 2005, the UK has proved that it can compete with the best, win, deliver and do what is promised.”
Let the Games begin.
Sponsorship deals with Dow Chemical and BP threaten to derail the Olympics’ sustainable aims. It’s not too late to cancel them
The Olympic Games showcase exceptional athletic prowess under pressure. But to the chagrin of London 2012 organisers, a different sort of pressure has emerged: a clash between Olympic-style environmentalism and the corporate commercialism of the Games.
The Olympics have long been on a collision course between sustainability and hyper-commercialism. In a way, it’s green versus green, the green ideas of environmentalism versus the greenbacks of corporate capitalism. Right now, Olympics bigwigs are leaning toward greenbacks, placing us on a path toward greenwashing rather than real-deal sustainability. But there’s still time to shift course by terminating sponsorship deals with Dow Chemical and BP.
Flaunting the fluffy language of sustainability has become de rigueur for global cosmopolitans, and the rarefied strata of Olympics elites underscore this trend. Since the 1990s, the International Olympic Committee has increasingly woven sustainability lingo into its masterplans. In October 1999, the IOC established “Agenda 21″ to “encourage all individuals … to behave in such a way as to ensure that their sporting activities and their lifestyles play a part in sustainable development”. This fuzzy language now infuses Olympics rhetoric. The IOC has even made the environment the third pillar of Olympism, along with sport and culture. Agenda 21 had its coming-out party at the Sydney Games in 2000, but it’s making its strongest showing to date in London.
But to understand the words of environmentalism we also need to consider the deeds of Olympics commercialism. The 1976 Montreal Olympics were pivotal. Like London 2012, boosters promising an Olympics-inspired economic heyday, and the then-Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau justified huge infusions of public money for the Games by assuring critics “the Montreal Olympics can no more have a deficit, than a man can have a baby”. In reality, the Games were an economic flop. The Olympic Stadium became not-so-affectionately known as the “Big Owe”, and massive public debt wasn’t paid off until 30 years later.
On the heels of this fiscal disaster, cities were not eager to host the Games and the IOC decided corporate cash would save the Olympics from financial instability. Fast-forward to today, when corporate sponsors fork out more than £63m ($100m) for exclusive 10-year deals. A three-tiered system of domestic sponsors doles out millions more, as well as goods and services. These deals help cover less than half the £2bn operating costs of the London Games (not to be confused with the overall costs of the Olympics, which are much higher). The corporate-sponsorship cornucopia has led to what sports scholar Alan Tomlinson dubs “the Disneyfication of the Olympics”.
Nowadays, it’s obligatory for each Olympics to claim to be “the greenest Games to date”. The London 2012 sustainability plan assures us that “sustainability underpins the entire London 2012 programme” and vows to be “the first sustainable Olympic and Paralympic Games”. But numerous corporate sponsors of London 2012 bring the collision of greens into sharp focus. Here are two that deserve our special scrutiny.
Dow Chemical is a “worldwide Olympic partner” for the 2012 Games, enjoying one of the elite £63m sponsorship deals with the IOC. The firm has also agreed to provide a £7m decorative wrap for the Olympic stadium. In 1999, Dow Chemical merged with Union Carbide, the notorious US firm responsible for the 1984 gas disaster in Bhopal, India. Dow’s involvement has roused ire in numerous circles. The Indian Olympic Association has insisted London dump the Dow deal. Indian government officials have considered boycotting the opening and closing ceremonies. Indian paralympians have suggested boycotting the Games. The kerfuffle led to the resignation of Meredith Alexander from the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, a toothless regulatory board set up to assess London’s sustainability efforts. Even former London mayor and big-time Olympics booster Ken Livingstone claimed the Dow debacle could create a “crisis of legitimacy for the Games”.
BP is a “sustainability partner” for the London Olympics. To be sure, Locog, the London Olympic Games organising committee, sealed the partnership deal before the Deepwater Horizon debacle in the Gulf of Mexico, the underwater oil geyser that haemorrhaged some 750m litres of oil and killed 11 workers. But BP had already established a dodgy environmental track record. In March 2005 – before signing on to sponsor the London Games – a BP oil refinery in Texas City, Texas, exploded, killing 15, injuring more than 170, and sending a cascade of toxic chemicals into the environment. Plus, despite its rebranding makeover, BP peddles oil that contributes to climate disruption. Derrick Evans, a Gulfport, Mississippi, resident and community organiser with the Gulf Coast Fund, told me having BP as a “sustainability partner” was “a joke”. He said: “It’s like it was scripted by a brilliant satirist. It’s springtime for BP in unsustainability planet.”
These firms – and others – besmirch London’s green cred. But Olympics organisers still have time to make amends. Indigenous Environmental Network organiser Clayton Thomas-Muller, member of the Mathais Colomb Cree Nation, reasoned that the IOC confiscates medals from athletes who are caught doping, so surely it could terminate these sponsorships should it wish to do so. If the IOC and Locog want their sponsorship programmes to have an ethical spine, they need to demonstrate some ethics of their own and show egregious greenwashers the door. It’s not too late.
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• Betting-related corruption a major threat to Games, says IOC
• Met will have unit dedicated to tackling illegal gambling
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has signed an information-sharing agreement with Betfair, the largest online betting exchange, as part of an attempt to clamp down on the threat of corruption ahead of the London 2012 Games. Betfair has similar memorandums of understanding with other governing bodies, laying out a framework for sharing information on suspect betting patterns and other integrity issues.
The IOC president Jacques Rogge and the sports minister Hugh Robertson have both warned that the potential for betting-related corruption is a major threat to the success of the Games. The IOC has a unit dedicated to tracking suspicious betting patterns and the government has amended the Gambling Act to allow the UK watchdog the Gambling Commission to share information with the Lausanne-based international governing body.
Betfair is based offshore and therefore not licensed by the Gambling Commission, but the company points to its agreements with major governing bodies as evidence of its commitment to clamping down on corruption. Betfair has a dedicated integrity team, aided by specialist software, that tracks every bet placed and laid on the site from its London headquarters.
The Metropolitan police will also have a specialist unit dedicated to the issue. Betfair, like other major bookmakers, will be offering a market on every gold medal that is being competed for at the Games.
“The interests of sports governing bodies, like the IOC, and Betfair are completely aligned in wanting to ensure consumers can bet on sporting events in a transparent and secure manner,” said Martin Cruddace, Betfair’s chief legal and regulatory affairs officer. “If we are to protect the sports we all love then we must continue to work openly and co-operatively, and today’s agreement is a clear example of just that.”
But although working with legal bookmakers to monitor suspect bets is seen as an important plank of the IOC’s strategy, the largest threat to the integrity of the Games is more likely to come from the huge illegal betting markets in east Asia.
Rogge told the Guardian last year that betting-related corruption was now as big a threat to the integrity of sport as doping. “It is a world problem and it is a very pernicious problem. With the introduction of broadband, you can bet worldwide,” he said. “The danger is that from illegal betting comes match-fixing and you see more and more attempts to manipulate matches. It is as dangerous as doping for the credibility of sport. It’s only the beginning of a huge battle.”
The rapid pace of technological change that has facilitated a global market, huge illegal betting markets in Asia, and the rewards on offer for those tempted to cheat, have combined to make the threat of match-fixing and betting corruption a huge issue for sports governing bodies.
Government legislation to require offshore bookmakers to register with the Gambling Commission and legally require them to share information on suspect bets is not likely to be in place before the Olympics.