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Sunday, 24 September, 2000, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
Is the Olympic ideal being crushed by sponsorship?

Olympic spectators with a penchant for Pepsi could find themselves kicked out of the games if they refuse to surrender their cans of cola.

The reason? So official sponsors Coca-Cola can keep their multi-million pound exclusivity at the games.

Baskets of Sydney 2000 merchandise have been dumped at tills on the discovery that the only credit card they accept is Olympic sponsor Visa.

One café inside the complex has even been asked to withdraw a bacon and egg roll from its menu because it was too similar to an Egg McMuffin - property of another official sponsor, McDonald's.

However Olympic organisers dismiss any accusations of rampant commercialism. The Olympic Games does after all forbid stadium advertising and non-sports brands on athletes' vests.

Do you think commercialism is detracting from the true spirit of the games? Tell us what you think. HAVE YOUR SAY It is a phenomenon of the changing times. The pageant needs funding and this is how it happens. Same go's for Professionals now partaking - it makes no sense to have a gulf of performance between what is being achieved by pros vs amateurs. The important issue is drugs and sponsors could do more to help keep the games clean.
Keith Noble, Singapore

I think this reputation we have of only caring about ourselves, gets a bit over played

Steve Gibson, Washington DC, USA
In response Carol's comments about NBC's coverage, there are many criticisms you can say about it, but they have certainly not nit picked foreign athletes. I have watched most of it, and yes its all tape delayed and stuffed with endless profiles (both of US and foreign) of the athletes. They have also shown events in which no Americans were participating or had no chance of winning a medal. I think this reputation we have of only caring about ourselves, gets a bit over played.
Steve Gibson, Washington DC, USA

The only amateurs left in sport are the officials and referees. Sport is a massive money making industry. Why shouldn't people be allowed to have a share of the huge amount of money they generate? That's like saying actors shouldn't get paid for making films, they should just do it for the fun and kudos leaving all the money to the media companies.
Graeme, England

The IOC is entirely to blame. Each Olympics becomes more expensive as the IOC demands that nations compete for hosting privileges by proposing ever more elaborate and expensive new stadiums, housing, offices, etc. The selfish IOC doesn't concern itself with the long-term debt that hosting the Olympics can place on a city and its citizens. Until the IOC learns the meaning of "financially responsible games", I'm all in favour of corporate sponsorship to avoid civic debt.
Sheila, USA

The city has come alive, we are enjoying ourselves immensely

Howard J. Rogers, Sydney, Australia
What has happened to this city in the past week is worth the 7-year wait, the billions of dollars and the slight inconvenience of foregoing Pepsi for the day. The city has come alive, we are enjoying ourselves immensely, and "somebody" has to pay for it all. I'd rather it was the likes of Coca-Cola and McDonalds, thanks all the same. And since they have stumped up the cash, I think it the height of churlishness to suggest they should then watch their competitors do very nicely out of their spending and investment.
Howard J. Rogers, Sydney, Australia

Commercial sponsorship has some powerful benefits for the Olympics. After the Salt Lake City scandal US congressmen threatened to withdraw non-profit tax status to the US Olympic Committee, thus squeezing corporate donations. They did this to force the IOC to finally deal with corruption and revamp the selection process for future game sites and IOC membership. Had the IOC not been so dependent on corporate sponsorship do you think they would have cleaned up their act?
Adam Parker, USA

The Olympics can be done without being sold out to the sponsor. This was the case until Moscow 1980. (Montreal is probably still paying for the 76 Olympics). But Los Angeles got the games and the Americans were after a fast buck. That's the issue eventually. Should outrageous profit be made by the organisers or should the Olympics be a responsibility that brings pride and debt to the host?
Charis, USA

At the beginning of the 20th century, a great Canadian runner named Tom Longboat, who would run barefoot, lost his amateur status and was barred from the Olympics after someone bought him a pair of shoes. Nowadays, we see professional athletes being paid to wear brand name shoes and who are emblazoned with every imaginable corporate logo. Whither amateur sport? Baron Pierre De Coubertain (founder of the modern Olympics) is rolling in his grave.
Pete, Canada

There are few, if any sports which have not been destroyed by sponsorship.
Robbie, South Africa

The coverage of the Olympics on NBC (US TV) is downright ridiculous. The commentators are solely interested in US athletes and look for every opportunity to nit-pick the performance of other athletes. Whatever has become of the 'good sport'?
Carol, Trinidad and Tobago

Yes, the Atlanta Olympics were commercial, but at least they were paid for without any local tax increases!

Charles, Atlanta, GA, USA
I was 16 years old when the Olympics took place in Atlanta. It was one of the best summers of my life, Coca-Cola and all. The Australian Government poured billions into their Olympics and probably had to add some sort of tax to do so. Yes, the Atlanta Olympics were commercial, but at least they were paid for without any local tax increases! You've got your choice: either accept the presence of commercial sponsors or have more money stolen from your paycheck! The Government already takes enough of my money, so I welcome the likes of Coca-Cola!
Charles, Atlanta, GA, USA

The Olympics have become synonymous with corruption, corporate greed, drug scandals and the ugliest form of jingoism. Sydney 2000 is turning out to be another grotesque parody of the Olympian ideal as steroid-fuelled athletes compete to make multinational corporations even richer. Great sportsmen of the past, like the incomparable Eric Liddell, would not recognise today's Olympic Games.
Phil Sands, Scotland

I've stopped watching the Olympics all together for the very reason that the Olympics, an event which overcomes war, bridges societies and promotes peace and friendly competition to honour the achievements of humankind, has become nothing more than a dirty, corrupt excuse for a global event. If there wasn't so much money involved (from advertising), perhaps there would be less scandal and corruption, and the games would return to achieve their once honourable and glorious purpose.
Thomas, Canada

The ideal of competition, world togetherness and "taking part" gave way first to xenophobic nationalism during the Cold War and more recently to hyper-commercialism. The Olympic ideal is not being crushed; it disappeared decades ago.
Brian Farenell, USA

Advertisement works otherwise it wouldn't be practised. Sponsors are getting their money back through increased demand, otherwise they wouldn't play this game. Even if an individual can stem his personal greed, the average person must ultimately submit to the commercial's persuasive power.
Kristján Jónsson, Germany

Although many nations turn up, the Olympics only really form a backdrop for the developed nations to parade against. Let's get back to the competition of individuals not corporations.
Winston Hawthorne, Jamaica

The parts of Sydney near the complex have been turned into Disneyland

Andrew C. Bulhak, Australia
Apparently the organisers of the Olympics have recruited teams of "brand police" (mostly university law students) to check whether people in the Olympic complex are wearing clothing advertising non-sponsors' brands or religious/ political messages. Offenders face expulsion from the complex. Also, a number of onerous laws have been passed in Sydney, overriding residents' civil rights in order to guarantee profits for the sponsors. The parts of Sydney near the complex have been turned into Disneyland.
Andrew C. Bulhak, Australia

Why the fuss? The Olympics have long since lost their credibility as a "sporting" event. The inclusion of ballroom dancing was the final nail in the coffin. What next? Ballet, tap, darts, pool, charades or my particular strength - sleeping?
Roy McMahon, UK

The whole thing started to lose its way after the boycotts on Moscow and LA. Barcelona almost managed to resuscitate things but Atlanta finally killed it off. I am so amazed that a company that tries to sell itself as a friendly family restaurant allows its legal teams to go around bullying other people. That's effectively what they are doing.
Andy Marshall, UK

Maybe it's because I grew up in Georgia almost constantly surrounded by Coca-Cola signs, but I don't find the commercialism surrounding the Olympic Games nearly as threatening as most of the other respondents seem to. The Games don't exist in a vacuum; modern Western society is based largely on free enterprise and consumerism, and that such a large undertaking as the Olympics reflects that is unavoidable. The expenses related to the Games are too large to be absorbed by any local economy, and there is no more logical vehicle than corporate sponsorship to spread the expenses across the global audience. Any attempts to discuss an alternative to commercialism either involve a radical downscaling of the Games or quickly descend into utopian fantasy.
Stephen Mattox, USA

Fact of life - IOC want money - sponsorship provides money. End of story. When drug use is rife within sport I don't think there are many ideals left to live up to!
Clare, UK

The whole concept of Olympic Games was a farce from the start

Brumman, Canada
The whole concept of Olympic Games was a farce from the start and it hasn't been a genuine sports event since Helsinki 52. It has been totally ruined by professionalism, commercialism and the International Organisation for Corruption.
I have ignored the so-called games for the past 40 years and have missed nothing worthwhile. The communities which fight like pigs at the trough with their "bids" never represent the views of the majority of their citizens - just business interests with their eyes on profit. What a disgusting display of greed and chauvinism these "games" have become!
Brumman, Canada

Seems commercialism IS the true spirit of the games. I think we indeed can partly blame the media for this one, for they only highlight the marketing department's dream athletes. Where the big money sports get all the coverage and oftentimes most Olympic sports aren't even shown on TV, so, if all you see are swimmers in the latest high tech gear, or NBA stars turned oh-so-temporary Olympians, you wind up with non stop commercialism. I do believe that 1984 LA games took this to a new height, but then again, most of the world's major sporting events were already going this way anyhow.
Stephen Kenney, USA

This is the beginning of an awful trend, especially in the US. The advertising wars have even reached their tentacles into public institutions like high schools and universities. Now, some college are state-designated as Coke-only or Pepsi-only; McDonalds-only or Burger-only. It is a very evil trend. Batten down your windows and pray it doesn't get worse.
Mark, USA

Far too much blatant commercialism, it can't be good for anyone except the multinationals.
Michael Kingston, New Zealand

I think the Visa monopoly at the main Olympic site and on ticket sales is disgusting. The site is miles away from the city centre, obviously, and it's not acceptable to deny people a basic facility like access to their money (and so water, food etc - pretty crucial stuff on a hot day in West Sydney) just because they don't use the Olympic credit card. The Olympics is supposed to be about everybody coming together, not just Visa customers coming together to the exclusion of everybody else.
Simon, Australia

If people want to see spectacular events and a big show then it has to be paid for

Judith, England
The Olympics have always been about entertainment, not some "higher ideal". If people want to see spectacular events and a big show then it has to be paid for. Who better than advertisers? At least you can choose not to buy what they advertise.
Judith, England

To suggest that major sports events are being destroyed by their sponsors is akin to locking the gate after the proverbial horse has bolted. This trend started with the LA Olympics in 1984, and really took off in 1996 when the event was held in Atlanta - the home of Coca Cola.
Rick, UK

The IOC has let everything get out of hand because of their greed. If they are going to promote alcoholic beverages like Budweiser with athletes, why not include the big dollar sponsors like Marlboro too?
Dan, USA

It is simple! All those who rightfully object to such unfair marketing practices, should vote with their wallets and never buy or use these products. Ultimately it is only sales and profits that mean anything to such multi-nationals, not the Olympics. We all have a choice to buy or not to buy after the Olympics.
Bernard Marcazzo, Switzerland

The Olympics has prostituted itself to corporations - a sort of counterpoint to the drug scandals that occur.
Michael, Canada

The Olympics is just a corporate sales event for a few big companies with deep pockets. This doesn't mean you HAVE to buy their products. More people are going to watch the events on TV than live at the venues, so if you want to drink a Pepsi, whilst eating a Whopper that you paid for on your Mastercard then go ahead. You can feel really smug that these other companies have paid millions of dollars to be Olympic 'partners' and in return you've given them nothing.
Peter, Switzerland

I think it is despicable that free movement and consumer choice is not allowed in a country such as Australia. When are we going to escape the mass coca-colonisation of the world and the ridiculous power of the multi-national corporations! How dare they. WE should boycott coke and visa and see how they feel.
April Hutchinson, UK

In reality, the Olympics are an incredibly expensive event funded mainly through sponsorship deals. Turn the tables for a minute, if you were sponsoring the games with your own money, and with no advertising allowed within the sports themselves, wouldn't you want to maximise the return you get for your money?
Mike Dee, UK

Evidently the sport ideal with all competing as equals has been lost in the grab for money

Robert, UK
The Olympic games has become like any other sporting event, a business display. The country hosting the event is doing it to make a profit for themselves. As for the banning of non-sponsor company products, this is a monopolistic act and goes against a free trade ethic.
Perhaps if all those who prefer Pepsi were to stay away from the games in protest rather than submit to being forced to drink Coca-Cola the resultant loss of money would make the organisers buck their ideas up. When there is a surplus of worthless souvenirs at the end of the games, there will be only one set of people to blame. This is supposed to be a sporting event, evidently the sport ideal with all competing as equals has been lost in the grab for money.
Robert, UK

We only have ourselves to blame that companies peddling such rubbish have become successful. It's natural that they will try to sponsor leading sporting events.
Terry, England

The Olympic spirit has died under the dead weight of the professional sport-industry. It seems obvious that the desire to cash in will kill the golden goose. How many 'consumers' feel in any way linked to the games? It has become a matter of the largest wallet and the best 'drugs' that make the games the success they are.
Robin Barton, Singapore

We can't escape what we have created

Louis, USA
I do not like the fact that these companies come up and bully these people, as well as us, to buy these products during this celebration of brotherhood. I mean, when I was watching a video that preceded the Opening Ceremony, I thought first it looked like an ad for Qantas, then for Nike. Though sponsorship is needed these days in order to get something this expensive like an Olympic games done, the companies can at least let people who have other tastes express themselves instead of going into the companies' will.
But this is a privatised, increasingly anti-competitive market, and these sorts of companies unfortunately exist in this market situation. We can't escape what we have created. I drink a Pepsi to that.
Louis, USA

The Olympic ideal has long since been lost due to commercialism. To me the turning point was the 1984 LA games when commercialism seemed to take a much greater part in the games. I remember the feeling of being let down after these games. The emphasis seems to have now changed from the glory of winning to how much a Gold Medal is worth (commercially to the athlete) after the games. This is all due to Television and sponsorship (both go hand in hand).
Martin, UK

Why would any mature company want to be so closely associated with an event that for much of the time has all the gravitas of It's A Knockout

Stephen Allen, UK
In Atlanta there was an almost fanatical interpretation of sponsorship agreements - at one point it looked like no mail would get into the Olympic village as the US Postal Service had dropped its sponsorship. Frankly I can empathise with the USPS - why would any mature company want to be so closely associated with an event that for much of the time has all the gravitas of It's A Knockout and all the dignity of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Stephen Allen, UK

No consumers, no companies - they must have us, but do we need them? If we only realised it, the power actually lies with us, the consumers. Use it - and become wealthier and healthier, all at the same time.
Roger Buck, New Zealand

I find it hard to comprehend the fact that a company which is not willing to invest in such profitable ventures like Olympics through sponsorship would still peddle its goods there.
In the first place, these companies should have known that sales promotions and advertisement is an investment of some sorts. If they ducked out, let them keep the goods away from the Olympics area.
However, if I feel like having a Pepsi I should have a right to enjoy it without interference.
Grace Akello, Uganda

These sponsors have every right to enter into contracts and see them enforced

Michael Katter, USA
What we have here is more an irrational fear of commercialism. The fact is that these sponsors have every right to enter into contracts and see them enforced. If the type of deals prove unpopular with consumers, then market forces will shift them into new directions.
What is disturbing is the unfair resentment directed at successful companies. These companies are strong as a result of winning practices within a free marketplace. It's almost a type of sport in itself.
Anti-capitalist types are so jealous and afraid of them that they would surrender the one thing which allows economic success: freedom. How un-sporting...
Michael Katter, USA

There are multi-million pound sponsorship deals for the Olympics, yet many smaller countries' teams have to buy their own equipment and cannot even afford to give their competitors spending money for their time in Australia! How about the sponsors provide a fund so every country is competing (literally) on a level playing field?
Justin Steed, Sweden

The junk food and drink sponsors of the Games almost seem to be having a bit of a joke - Who will sponsor it next time? A cigarette company? An alcohol company? Or perhaps, as a novelty, an organisation that vigorously supports health and fitness ahead of profit?
Matthew S, UK

I urge all spectators to turn up wearing PEPSI TO THE MAX tee shirts

Khan, UK
I urge all spectators to turn up wearing PEPSI TO THE MAX tee shirts, and to wave their Access cards in the air whenever clapping and waving is called for. As for Egg McMuffins ... do people actually EAT those things?
Khan, UK

Just be glad if you're not watching the Olympics on NBC (US TV). I turned it on for 30 secs last night, after which I didn't know whether to roll on the floor with laughter, or reach for a bucket. We can we watch it live on CBC (Canadian TV), or the next evening with the marketing packaging on NBC. NBC's exclusive coverage in the US has turned the Olympics into a joke: it's about the (US) athletes, not about the sports. It's all about marketing.
I don't think the commentators even understand the sports: they often don't mention the names of the people the US athletes are competing against, nor how a particular event works. They just care about advertising dollars, and increasing the value of the time slots for other sponsors, etc.
Malc, Brit in Canada

Dictating what to drink and how to pay for goods concerns me

Douglas McLellan, Scotland
The actual sporting events themselves lack overt sponsorship. I can live with gold trainers and sharkskin swimsuits and I think it should stay that way. But the churlishness of the sponsors surrounding the overall event is beyond belief. Sponsorship is fine but dictating what to drink and how to pay for goods concerns me and sets a dangerous precedent for future events.
Douglas McLellan, Scotland

If we insist on drinking a product that a mechanic friend of mine uses as a very effective engine-block degreaser, or foods that disappoint in taste and size then we've only ourselves to blame that they have the funding to support such promotional excesses.
Mark Selby, UK

What they need at the games is a convoy of British Truckers who can picket the McDonald's store until they let bacon and eggs into the games!
Philip Levy, UK

It is the result of the selfishness of some companies not to give leeway to others

Grace Ho How Lian, Singapore
I think the problem has nothing to do with commercialism. Rather, it has more to do with the over zealous enforcement of the copyright law. It is also the result of the selfishness of some companies not to give leeway to others. For years, commercialism has been going on quite well in all Olympics. Why then must this happen only now?
Grace Ho How Lian, Singapore

It's not commercialism that will do this. It is quite simply a matter of law. If the law permits that a person can be discriminated on the clothes they wear, the drinks they drink, the food they eat, then the world is in dire straits.
If I were at the Olympics and were asked to be removed because I drank Pepsi they'd have a lawsuit so big slapped on them that they'd need an Olympic sized wallet to pay the damages I asked for.
What if vogue sponsored it and everyone there had to look like a supermodel or risk being thrown out?
Jason, England

Reduce the size of the Games and the sponsors would disappear

Philip Ross, England
Reduce the size of the Games and the sponsors would disappear. Only include running, jumping and throwing between individuals and get rid of all the team sports. This would mean that the Games could be run without sponsors. Of course the officials wouldn't get all the perks but who cares.
Philip Ross, England

It is a catch-22 situation. Without the funds of the sponsors, the Olympics would be difficult. If the sponsors can not sell their wares, it would be difficult to provide the funds. I think it is fair, that the sponsor should be able to raise funds, in the ventures in which they have vested interest.
It will obviously be very bad, if an organisation, that did not contribute to the Olympics, is trying to cash-in. It is like taking a free ride on the back of a large whale, even if the whale can not feel your weight, does not mean it should be condone.
Ade Talabi, UK

Any Olympic ideal of unity through sport died long ago

Suresh Kerai, England
Every time I hear another of these stories, it confirms even more that the Olympics are one big corporate festival for the aggrandisement of the self-proclaimed IOC. Any Olympic ideal of unity through sport died long ago, if it ever existed at all within the IOC.
Suresh Kerai, England

This sort of behaviour is not that surprising from large companies, they can manipulate anything, including politics. Businesses that only accept certain credit cards are commonplace in any country, but food and drink?
Colin, Netherlands

I find it astounding that companies who peddle disgusting fast foods and soft drinks - items linked to obesity - should be allowed to sponsor any sporting events let alone the Olympics.
Janet, UK

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See also:

12 Sep 00 | Olympics2000
Playing your cards right
18 Sep 00 | Olympics2000
Olympic brand war

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