McDonald's super-size Olympics plan upsets health groups

LONDON Thu Jul 21, 2011 4:12pm BST

A flag blows in the wind above a McDonald's restaurant in Encinitas, California July 21, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Blake

A flag blows in the wind above a McDonald's restaurant in Encinitas, California July 21, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake

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LONDON (Reuters) - London was failing in its pledge to create the healthiest Olympics ever, health groups said, after McDonald's fast-food chain said it was to build its biggest and busiest restaurant in the world to serve the Games next summer.

The largest of its planned four temporary restaurants in the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, will seat more than 1,500 people, while a total of 1.75 million burger and chips meals expected to be served during the 29 days of competition.

The previous Labour government had pledged to use the Olympics to get two million more Britons to adopt an active lifestyle to try to battle obesity.

"Given many countries in the developed world, and some in the developing world, are facing a major problem with obesity, it is unfortunate that McDonalds are major sponsors at the 2012 London Olympics," the doctors' professional organisation, the British Medical Association, said in a statement on Thursday.

"The BMA does not believe individuals should stop buying McDonalds but we need to get the message across that these products should be seen as very rare treats."

Grahame Morris, who sits on parliament's health committee, said in a statement: "Given the huge public health issues of childhood obesity, it is legitimate to question whether having the world's biggest McDonald's at the Olympic Park is sending an appropriate message to our young people."

McDonald's is a long-standing official Olympic sponsor with an exclusive deal that ensures it is the only branded restaurant in the park.

Two of the Olympic restaurants will be open to the public, and the other two will be in the athletes' village and media centre.

When asked about the health criticisms, a spokeswoman said in a statement: "There is no doubt that McDonald's food can fit into a balanced, active lifestyle and we offer a range of choices on our menu, as well as nutritional information on our trayliners, website and on packaging, to help our customers make an informed choice."

Separately, Jill McDonald, chief executive of McDonald's UK, said it was "hugely exciting" to be involved in the greatest sporting event in the world, and that the restaurants would help meet the London organising committee's (LOCOG) green objectives, with all four restaurants being re-used after the Games.

McDonald's is not the only sponsor to have come in for criticism.

Coca-Cola, another long-standing official sponsor, and confectioner Cadbury, signed up by LOCOG as a domestic sponsor, also go against the ambitions of the Games, health and welfare charity Sustain said.

"The ambition in the bid was to promote healthy living, and the sponsorship will promote fizzy drinks, chocolate and burgers, so it's clear there is a mismatch between sponsorship arrangements and the ambition to make this the greenest and healthiest games yet," a Sustain spokeswoman said.

A spokeswoman for LOCOG said in a statement that a "diverse and full ... range of other local food offerings" would be provided.

"We will cater for the wide range of people attending the Games, from athletes to spectators," she added.

(Reporting by Avril Ormsby; editing by Keith Weir)

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