McDonald’s and the Olympics: A Dangerous Love Affair | By Emerson Csorba

With the London Olympics upon us, it seems that Olympics commercials are hitting us left, right, and center. This comes as no surprise; seldom do the world’s premier athletes assemble in the same city to showcase their physical talents, and represent their respective countries.

On TSN for example, top Canadian athletes like triathlete Simon Whitfield tell Canadians that they are ready for the Games, and that the four years of training are about to reveal themselves on the course. These athletes deserve the glory, as ephemeral as it may be; they’ve been training non-stop for the last four years. Some are fortunate to have even made the Olympics, others have battled nagging injuries, pushing themselves through substantial pain. And in nearly every case, you can bet that these athletes have paid close attention to their nutritional intake. Though some athletes may be more liberal with their food and drink consumption – and in all cases, athletes do splurge on candies, chocolate, etc. – these Olympians’ diets are paramount to their athletic performance.

Because of this, you can bet that McDonald’s plays no role in their nutrition. Take one glance at the nutritional content information on the internet, and you’ll see that even a quarter pounder leaves your body reeling: 530 calories for 200 grams. And a Big Mac? Over 700 calories. Once you factor in fries with soft drinks, a ‘small’ dessert and possibly another item, we’re talking about a 1000+ calorie meal. That is more than enough recovery for a thirty kilometer run, let alone the majority of individuals in our society that lead sedentary lifestyles. McDonald’s, rather than enhance athletes’ athletic performance, provides the type of food that should be avoided.

Perhaps it comes as a surprise, then, that McDonald’s is an official sponsor of the 2012 London Olympics. It is an odd relationship, to say the least. On one hand, there is an ultra-fit athlete that eats plenty of veggies and fruit, and then chows down on chicken for supper. Rarely, if ever, does this person frequent a McDonald’s. On the other hand, we see a person that never cooks a home-made meal, opting instead for fast-food. Three times per day, every day of the week. And these two individuals don’t just get along. No, they’re a happy couple. They’ve been together since 1976, and the relationship will continue until at least 2020.

Obviously, the partnership is about money. Public relations campaigns might convince some spectators that McDonald’s offers nutritious food, but when push comes to shove, we’re looking at 1000+ calorie meals, Happy Meals, apple pies and McFlurries (these alone add 500+ calories to your meal). If you scan the McDonald’s website, you’ll learn about its emphasis on Balancing Busy Lives, and Moms’ Quality Correspondents. What’s more, you even get to peek inside the McDonald’s kitchens! These tactics can be deceiving, and it’s true that some Olympians might even attest to the “benefits” of eating at McDonald’s (see: Dana Torres); however, there is no getting around the fact that McDonald’s is nothing more than one big grease hangover.

There’s no end in sight to the Olympics-McDonald’s love affair. Still, that does not mean that we should passively accept it. With an aging population and obesity on the rise, our health care system might be in for some trouble over the next few decades. If we don’t leave our seats for the outdoors, nothing is going to change, and it will become even more difficult for people to abolish habits of physical laziness.

The Olympics only come around every few years. The athletic feats, the year-round dedication, the failures and the triumphs should inspire us to lead better lives. But each time that I see McDonald’s in the same advertisement as the Olympics, I have to stop and think. Do we really have a shot at creating a healthier society? I’m on the fence.

Remember, if Simon Whitfield comes darting across the triathlon finish line in first place, he won’t be thanking McDonald’s for the ‘healthy’ meals. He’ll be thanking his family.

And the fact that he ate his fruits and veggies.

Emerson is making his way through Illustration Magazine (from the Computer Arts Collection). His current week consists of walking outdoors for interviews, recovering from an injury and writing in the Fine Arts Building.

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