With just over two weeks until the London 2012 Olympic Games get underway, expectations and excitement are starting to build momentum. Yet, amidst the optimism of London hosting a successful games is outrage, and not only because a mass of tickets have been given to corporate entities and not put up for general release. The sponsorship of the Games by companies who make fortunes from extremely unhealthy drinks and food has led some to question how this could ever have been allowed.
The backdrop to this latest controversy is the fact that obesity is rising exponentially. In 2004, the World Health Organization stated that obesity is a global epidemic. The rise of obesity is particularly prevalent in the UK, with 60.8% of adults and 31.1% of children classed as obese. This in itself is highly dangerous, but can also cause lead to further health problems including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and even some forms of cancer. It places huge stress on the NHS, with the National Audit Office calculating a £500million cost directly on it, and a wider cost of £2billion to society.
Specifically, in the last 30 years processed food has taken over the British diet, and obesity has increased ‘in parallel’. In the past 10 years diabetes has doubled in Newham, the home of the Olympic village. This problem is only getting worse. At current rates and without any intervention by the government, 90% of adults will be termed obese by 2050, which will cost the taxpayer an estimated £45billion. Simply put, there has been an explosion of health-related problems and this has led to a public health disaster.
One may ask, what has all this got to do with the Olympics? Choices about what we eat are up to the individual, and furthermore, how are personal lifestyle choices relevant to the sporting spectacle in London this summer? Given that the Olympic Games is a global platform for sporting greatness underpinned by healthy lifestyles, it seems paradoxical that they are being sponsored by companies whose products are so detrimental to our health. Tony Jewell, one of the UK’s top doctors, has gone as far to openly condemn these sponsorships by stating they have ‘no place in sporting events’.