Posted by: ezzakazhall | July 12, 2012

Some sporting good junk…

The good folk at TV 3 News brought us this feel-good story last weekend.

Turns out, as part of the annual Dunedin Chocolate Carnival, a chocolate sculpture artist (the cocoa and milk version of The Toastman, it would appear!) has created a chocolate Wall of Fame, featuring chocolate likenesses of kiwi Olympians. Featuring, among others, swimming champ/ballroom dancer Danyon Loader and what looks like Mark Todd. Make out of no less than 150kg of dark and white chocolate. Here’s the video. 

Beautiful work, very quirky, rather timely and no doubt delicious (though far too lovely to eat!). Unfortunately, one of my first thoughts (right after, “I want chocolate”) was, “I wonder how that’s going to go down with the anti-obesity brigade?” Nearly a month of keeping this blog, and I’ve already been in the game too long.

I wondered because…as it turns out, there’s been quite a furore over McDonald’s and Coca-Cola sponsoring the London Olympics. As The Huffington Post puts it:

“With just a month before competitions get underway, the London Assembly has voted to call for a ban on the two sponsors [McDonald’s and Coke]. The Olympics, an event that showcases the world’s best athletic talent, should not be bankrolled by companies that produce high-calorie food and drinks that may contribute to obesity, believes the Assembly.

The move urges the International Olympic Committee to adopt strict criteria for sponsorship of the Games, which would exclude companies like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola.”

The rest of the Huff Post article can be found hereTime Magazine and the Global Post have also, among other publications, reported on this issue- with the Global post article quoting the British Academy of Royal Medical Colleges, who are also crying foul over McDonald’s sponsorship of the Games. Says a spokesperson from the UK’s Academy of Royal Medical Colleges:  “It’s very sad that an event that celebrates the very best of athletic achievements should be sponsored by companies contributing to the obesity problem and unhealthy habits”.

Turns out, it’s not just the Olympics coming under the deep frier for accepting sponsorship from the fast food giant. Australian online publication The Conversation recently ran a series of 16 articles about ways to combat Australia’s rising obesity stats – and one of the latter pieces (on the marketing and regulation of food and beverages) criticised bodies such as Cricket Australia for receiving sponsporship from “junk food companies”, and its players for “relentlessly promot[ing] such products to Australian children”. All I can say is I hope The Conversation hasn’t got wind of the Vodafone Warriors Burger here in New Zealand.

And as for my chocolate speculation? As it would appear from this press release, Cadbury New Zealand sponsored the New Zealand Winter Olympic team in 2010, and is also sponsoring the team (and is the “official treats provider” heading to London in a couple of weeks. Said the New Zealand Olympic Committee Secretary General, “Cadbury has been making chocolate in New Zealand since the days of Jack Lovelock in the 1930s. We’re delighted Cadbury New Zealand will support our Olympic teams to Vancouver and London enabling us to help our athletes make New Zealand proud.”

So there you have it. A company churning out products mainly consisting of full cream milk and sugar? Sponsoring our top athletes? Don’t get caught, Cadbury.

There are a few things about this proposed ban that are problematic.

1) The London Assembly is slightly late to the party on this one. As the Huff Post article linked above mentions, McDonald’s has been sponsoring the Olympics since 1976, and Coca-Cola has been a sponsor since 1928. Which begs the question: were obesity rates not a problem back then? Or has society just become more preoccupied with obesity? According to this research, obesity rates have been trending upwards since the 1970s. So, Government agencies have certainly had plenty of time in which to be concerned about the possible effects of fast food our waistlines, and enough time to worry about how McDonald’s (and Coca-Cola, for that matter) sponsoring the Olympics might look. So…why now?

2) I’m a little bit concerned by the idea that eating fast food and/or chocolate and athleticism are mutually exclusive. For example, Jamaican runner and Olympic medalist Usian Bolt claimed that chicken McNuggets were the key to his success when he won gold in Beijing in 2008. In fact, he even confessed to having eaten chicken nuggets right before his medal-winning race. Danyon Loader, when interviewed for the TV3 chocolate story, said he had no problem with Olympics athletes eating chocolate, and said, “With the miles that they do, especially the swimmers and the runners, you know chocolate is a good fuel source as well.” If absolutely no Olympic athletes even dared to put one toe inside a fast food joint, or even so much thought about a chocolate bar, then maybe a ban might be the way to go. But…that doesn’t appear to be the case.

3) On that note, I’m also bothered by the idea that larger bodies  and athleticism are mutually exclusive. US weightlifter Sarah Robles is 275lbs at 5’10. Holley Mangold, another American weightlifter headed for London, is 350lbs (and hopes to reshape the image of female weightlifters). This gentleman, while not an Olympian, completed the Los Angeles Marathon at 396lbs. And then we’ve got blogger and activist Ragen Chastain, a champion dancer at 5’4 and 284lbs. I am certainly not suggesting these people live off Maccas and Creme Eggs- but if the London Assembly takes issue with obesity rates, then they might want to see what these sportspeople are capable of at their current body size. Y’know, before outright banning the sponsorship of something that may or may not contribute to obesity.

All just my thoughts, of course. Will be happy to hear others.

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