The line-up of likely fast food and alcohol sponsors to the London 2012 Olympic Games represents a public health “challenge”, the NHS lead for the event has said.
McDonalds and Coca-Cola are already confirmed as sponsors to the 2012 London Olympics and HSJ has learned the alcohol industry is in talks with the organisers about its involvement also.
In a presentation to other public health officials last Wednesday, NHS London’s 2012 programme director Hilary Ross said public health professionals would need to work to “mitigate” the negative impact of the games’ corporate sponsors – something she said would be “challenging for people in public health potentially”.
She told the conference: “LOCOG [The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games] will have an alcohol sponsor. But there’s a whole range of actions we can undertake to mitigate that. Some of the work we have been doing is on how we work with these sponsors to leverage some of that to support health goals.”
Ms Ross produced a slide showing a McDonalds restaurant at the Vancouver 2010 winter games and said “from a public health perspective, I expect a picture paints a thousand words”.
She said her team had secured commitments the games organisers would provide “healthy options as well” and free water rather than just burgers, chips and fizzy drinks – something people had complained of at previous Olympics.
But she warned health bodies would have to be realistic about what they could do.
She said: “It will be about trying to find partnerships with them rather than going into battle with them saying, ‘we can’t work with them’.
“The legacy is at a real risk of being lost with the financial climate.”
LOCOG last week confirmed bidding had closed on applications to supply beer, wine and other drinks at some of the event’s venues and said those applicants had been offered the opportunity to sponsor the games as well.
However, it refused to confirm whether any representatives or members of the alcohol industry had pursued that wider offer.
A spokesman for LOCOG said: “We are seeking suppliers to provide beer, cider, stout, wine and champagne at certain venues. The opportunity is closed and we are now in discussions with companies which have expressed interest.
“We routinely investigate the appetite for potential sponsorship when we advertise potential opportunities.”
Ms Ross’s presentation at a London Health conference also revealed which London hospitals have been earmarked to take on extra work during the games.
Athletes and their entourages will mostly be treated in an “Olympic Clinic” run by NHS Newham, while spectators and other attendees will be treated at either Homerton University Hospital Foundation Trust in Hackney or Barts and the London Trust in Tower Hamlets.
“Dignitaries” will be treated separately, at University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust in Bloomsbury.