Practising and enjoying sports and physical activity help protect against numerous and serious chronic conditions as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Eating junk food like fat-rich hamburgers, sugar-loaded fizzy drinks can set off these very same deadly diseases. Associating the Olympics with the likes of Coca-Cola and McDonalds is not only absurd - it is also manifestly irresponsible.

The IOC recognises that "the Olympic Games are one of the most effective international marketing platforms in the world, reaching billions of people in over 200 countries and territories throughout the world."(2) Instead of promoting behaviors that enable people to make the most of their lives, the IOC is carelessly misleading spectators into associating exercise with junk food, which ultimately can make people very sick and costs our global economy and health systems billions.

"This is particularly outrageous given that children and their parents are a large proportion of the Olympics’ audience" Monika Kosińska, Secretary General of European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), pointed out. “By unrolling the red carpet to the advertising and marketing of junk-food giants, the IOC is setting a toxic trap to hundreds of millions of parents and kids," she went on to say.

For decades, the junk food industry has been patronising the consumer by insisting that healthy eating is all about personal choice. It is partially, but when the sector cheats by misappropriating the Olympic Games spirit of a healthy lifestyle, it undermines children and adolescents’ ability to recognise what is best for their well-being.

Marketing is clearly one of the factors influencing people’s choices as the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendations on food marketing to children (3) recognise by urging its member states to reduce the negative impact on unhealthy food marketing to children. Widespread junk-food based, poor-quality diets have a devastating impact on health. All across the world figures on chronic diseases unveil a ticking bomb with effects not only on people’s health, but also on today’s struggling health systems.

By embracing junk food brands until 2020 (which encompasses three summer and two winter Olympics), the IOC is sabotaging the international community’s efforts to put a leash to the voracious strategies of global, well-heeled junk food makers.

“Junk food poses enough health risks that it should be considered a controlled substance just like alcohol and tobacco. Health wise, using the podium of the Olympic Games to lure people to the soft-drink swig or the French fries bite is much like seducing spectators to have a smoke. The advertising of junk food should have been long banned from sports advertising and stadiums, let alone from the greatest global sports event,” said Monika Kosińska.

***END***

Notes to editors

1) Olympic Charter, International Olympic Committee

2) The Olympic Partner (TOP) programme

3) Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health - Marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children

Contact information

Javier Delgado Rivera, Communications Coordinator- +32 2 233 38 76 or j.delgado-rivera@epha.org

Last modified on June 12 2014.