Junk Food Infiltrates Rio Olympics

24/08/2016 08:11 | Updated 24 August 2016
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The wall to wall coverage of the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games are a celebration of health, fitness and the body beautiful.

We've been gleaming with pride thanks to our incredible athletes and celebrated our historic success.

But paradoxically, the Olympics is increasingly funded by the manufacturers of the junk food, the primary contributor to an obesity crisis that affects both Britain and Brazil.

The shambolic child obesity strategy was a missed opportunity by the government as they caved into lobbyists and food manufacturers.

We know that child physical health improves when junk food manufacturers are prohibited from marketing to them, and we know that obesity is a leading drain on public health finance.

But while we have banned cigarettes manufacturers from advertising at international sporting events, we allow junk food companies to market their products beside the role models of millions of children.

In 2011, leading US doctors and medical experts wrote to McDonald's, "As health professionals engaged directly in the largest preventable health crisis facing this country, we ask that you stop marketing junk food to children."

The following year, in time for the London Olympics, McDonald's paid a reported £75m to extend its Olympic sponsorship (which dates back to 1976) until 2020.

Coca Cola's deal, also running until 2020, is thought to be worth £33.7m for each four-year Games cycle.

Coca Cola and similar fizzy drinks has long been known to be a major contributor to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay.

In the decades to come, one in three children will develop type 2 diabetes as a result of diets high in junk food.

The Children's Food campaign has pointed out that junk food sponsorship of the Olympic Games gives them an unrivalled platform to promote their unhealthy brands and products.

Despite the criticism of McDonald's prominent role in London in 2012, the company has been allowed to pay for another carnival of junk food advertising at Rio.

Team GB in Rio is sponsored by Kellogg's, whose Olympics marketing theme is "Great Starts".

But many of the breakfast cereals it is promoting, such as Frosties and Coco Pops, are high in sugar.

And inexplicably they are also sponsored by a major cider brand.

The Alcohol Health Alliance has pointed out that "a study of school children aged 13-14 from four EU countries found exposure to alcohol sports sponsorship through (for instance)viewing a major football tournament was linked to a 70% increased chance of underage drinking."

They argue that "the sponsorship of Team GB by a cider brand will "promote the idea of drinking to our young people".

It is time that Olympics stopped giving one message about health and fitness through the games themselves, but a completely different message through the sponsors they choose.

It is no wonder that the 2012 Olympics, although a wonderful spectacle, did not result in an improvement in health and fitness in the UK.

Sadly the same will be true of Brazil. There needs to be an end of junk food sponsorship of the Olympics and Team GB should never again be sponsored by an alcohol company.