From Red Pepper April 2012
The corporate commercial bonanza provided by sponsorship opportunities for London 2012
The London 2012 Olympics are upon us. Already our media and public spaces are filling up with images of Olympian and Paralympian athletes striving to attain sporting greatness. The London organising committee (LOCOG) has publicly embraced the Olympic principles of social responsibility and fair play, promising us an ethical Games whose ‘lasting legacy’ will be lived out for years to come.
In reality, any public benefit from the Olympics will come in a distant second to private profit. Today’s Games have degenerated into a multi-billion dollar scramble by multinational corporations to associate their brands with the Olympic spirit, and companies are prepared to pay handsomely for the privilege. No other sporting event offers such a positive image of capitalist enterprise in the service of a higher cause.
Exclusive monopoly rights are an essential part of the sponsorship deals signed with Olympic partners. Visa will be the only credit card accepted at any Olympic venue, just as it was for those trying to buy tickets for the Games last year. McDonald’s will be the only branded food that can be sold at the events and Coca-Cola the only drinks provider. Logos and adverts for competing brands will be covered up to avoid ‘contamination’ during the Games.
This privatisation of the spoils goes hand in hand with the exclusion of local communities. Businesses face prosecution if they use Olympics branding in their own commercial activities, and residents of the Lower Lea Valley will enjoy few real benefits from the legacy of the Games.