Nobody can deny the impact that the 2012 Olympics has had from being held in Britain. The sight of our home grown athletics working hard, persevering and pushing their bodies to the upmost limit in order to achieve an Olympic medal and represent their country has been truly inspiring. And with the Paralympics currently on show, the impact of the Games in turning the nation into sports lovers has been immense. Or has it?
Since the Games began, the Government has continuously championed the effect they have had on the younger generation. Additionally, we have been led to believe that the Games have had an instrumental effect in encouraging youngsters to get more active and take up sports. So recent figures taken from a study showing an increase in junk food during the Games has left the Government with egg on their face.
According to the Daily Mail, sales of comfort snacks such as fizzy drinks, sweets and crisps surged in the four weeks to August 18 while the nation was heavily gripped by the Games. Likewise, within this period, sales of sugared soft drinks rose by 10 per cent in value and 8 per cent in volume compared with last summer. Confectionery sales, including chocolate, jumped by 8 per cent in value and 6 per cent in terms of the quantity eaten. Compiled by retail analysts Nielsen, the study's findings also revealed a 7 per cent rise in the value of crisps sold, thus translating into a 6 per cent jump in consumption.
But maybe these findings are not so shocking after all. Before the start of the Olympic games, after trying and failing to persuade the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban junk food and fizzy drink brands from future sporting sponsorship deals, health campaigners felt that the committee had effectively squandered the chance to create a positive health legacy from the London 2012 Games, [The Guardian].
The figures confirm the worst fears of the Children's Food Campaign (CFC), who previously had questioned the positive health implications by allowing the major sponsors Coca Cola, McDonalds and Cadbury to be given an unrivalled platform to promote their unhealthy brands and products. Moreover, this chokehold on the food and drinks served at the Games, held by sponsors Cadbury, Coca Cola and most noticeably McDonalds, whose restaurant at the Olympic Park is the largest in the world, makes the recent parallels between the Games and the increasing consumption of junk food unsurprising.
Although it is widely known that sponsorship from brands has been and is essential to the successful staging of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, by having such unhealthy brands promote the Games, CFC co-ordinator Malcolm Clark has argued that:
"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."
According to The Guardian, Coca Cola, one of the Games key sponsors, has argued that:
"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."
However, is it such a revelation that there has been an increase in sales of unhealthy snacks during a Games in which unhealthy food has endlessly been advertised and heavily driven into the subconscious of an unsuspecting audience? I think not. It seems contradictory that on one hand the Games presents and inspires people to lead a healthier and more active lifestyle, while on the other hand, promoting (via TV) and serving (at the Olympic park), high calorific junk food.
In my opinion the Government needs to look at the link between the rise of junk food and sponsorships from corporate giants such as McDonalds and Coca Cola. That is, if they want the younger generation in particular to follow in the footsteps of Team GB's inspiring athletes and lead healthy, active and positive lives.
I am a mother of three and it seems perplexing that the Games are trying to install healthy eating to our children while at the same time promoting McDonalds. Surely the Government can not be surprised?
Yes it is strange that the Games would use junk food corporations to promote them, but their sponsorships are financially needed.
Its hard for parents to make their youngsters eat healthy food, when such a big event like the London Olympic Games advertises brands that are the opposite to this.