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Lord Coe defends sponsorship of London Olympics

Category : Business

Investment by brands such as McDonald’s essential to making event a success, says chairman of 2012 committee

Lord Coe has staunchly defended the sponsorship of the London Olympics by fast food and soft drinks companies, arguing that the investment by brands such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s is essential to making the event a success.

The chairman of the London 2012 organising committee said he felt that some of the Olympic sponsors – which have invested more than £750m to associate themselves with this summer’s spectacle – have been unfairly maligned.

Coe pointed to the legacy that the London Olympics will deliver, including the regeneration of east London, as well as programmes of sports and health activities the sponsors have funded.

“Sponsors play a really important role to help that happen,” said Coe, in conversation with WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity on Friday.

“In large part it is easy to talk fast food and soft drinks but I’m a great believer in input and output. No one is suggesting Coke and McDonald’s are not doing a massive amount in terms of the legacy. They are doing an extraordinary amount to make sport come alive for young people.”

Official London Olympic sponsors including Coca-Cola, Cadbury and McDonald’s have come under fire for choosing to spend tens of millions of pounds to be associated with the event, while many of the products they sell are high in fat, sugar and salt, which critics say is fuelling the growing obesity crisis in the UK.

Other sponsors, such as BP, have come in for criticism for their business practices and ethics.

Coe said the financial reality of hosting an Olympic Games meant that it is impossible to expect the event to be delivered without significant commercial support.

“Sport now is a very different landscape than it used to be,” he added. “Sport is doing so much more and is being asked to do so much more than crash, bang, wallop at Stamford Bridge on a Tuesday night. No organising committee alone is resourced to drive the legacy ambitions we set out in Singapore [when London won the bid in 2005].”

Sorrell asked whether Coe would have believed that the UK should host the Olympics – with the massive investment required – if he had known in 2005 what the state of the economy would be.

“I would have redoubled my efforts because of the economic benefits to the country, which has been massive,” Coe replied. “I don’t think any games in history have been delivered in such a difficult environment, but the economic dividend around this has already been profound.”

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