Socialist Worker

The real game at the Olympics is profit

Dave Sewell names and shames the Olympics’ fat cat sponsors—and the contractors pocketing millions of pounds of government cash from the project

Issue No. 2294

ATOS, IT partner

IT services will be provided by Atos, which is particularly proud of being a sponsor of the Paralympic games.

But the company is better known for disabled people’s campaigns against it.

Atos carries out assessments on behalf of the government to determine which disabled people are worthy of benefits.

Claimants and former Atos employees have condemned its procedures as a “sham” designed to catch people out and take their benefits away.

G4S, security

G4S is set to get £130 million for providing security at the games.

It manages deportations from Britain and immigration detention centres for the government.

In 2010, Jimmy Mubenga died as three G4S private security guards were forcibly deporting him to Angola at Heathrow airport.

And last year a report slammed the firm for using racist language and heavy-handed restraint techniques during deportations.

RIO TINTO, medals

The gold, silver and bronze in the Olympic medals is being provided by mining giant Rio Tinto.

The mine and smelter supplying the Olympics has caused worse water contamination than any other mining operation in the world.

It has been accused of causing about 150 premature deaths a year through air pollution.

McDONALD’S, food

The Olympics is proud of its healthy, sporty image. So who better to provide the food for the games than McDonald’s?

Ronald McDonald’s burger empire has an exclusivity deal that means it is the only firm allowed to sell branded food at the Olympics.

It plans to build its biggest ever restaurant, a 3,000 metre square, two-storey, 1,500-seat monster, at the heart of the Olympic Park—and that’s just one of four.

It has also exploited unpaid “workfare” labour.


These are supposed to be the “greenest” games ever.

Yet oil giant BP has been made the official “sustainability partner”. It will supply all the games’ oil and gas.

The explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig in 2010 killed 11 oil workers and caused the worst oil spill in US history, devastating the Gulf Coast.

LLOYDS TSB, banking

The banking giant is the Olympics’ official banking and insurance partner—and a heavy investor in arms companies.

It is over 40 percent publicly owned since it was bailed out in 2008.

That means it has paid the sponsorship fees, and the costs of the associated marketing blitz, with our money.


The creepy Olympic mascots Wenlock and Mandeville have a terrible secret of their own. Each toy sells for £20, but they are made in China by workers who earn just 26p an hour.

The rest of the cash goes to the profits of factory bosses, British toy firms and shops—and there’s a cut for the Olympic Committee too.

DOW CHEMICAL, stadium wrapping

poison gas leaking from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in the Indian city of Bhopal in 1984 killed more than 20,000 people.

Many more have suffered debilitating long-term health problems.

But when Dow Chemical bought up Union Carbide in 1999, it denied any responsibility for Bhopal.

Now instead of cleaning up the site and compensating the victims and their families, Dow has spent £65 million on sponsoring the Olympics.

It will provide huge sheets of plastic wrap around the main stadium, covered in sponsors’ logos.

SODEXO, facilities

The company at the heart of “the biggest catering operation in peacetime” is Sodexo.

Trade unionists representing Sodexo workers in five countries brought evidence of the company’s practices before the Olympic organising committee in 2010.

They told the story of one worker who was dragged into the industrial machinery at a chocolate factory and nearly killed. Another whose fingers were chopped off, and one who was locked in an industrial freezer.

Workers who spoke up about unsafe conditions were intimidated and fired.

COCA-COLA, oldest sponsor

Coca-Cola has sponsored the Olympics since 1924.

In 1936 it sponsored the “Nazi Olympics” in Berlin, where Hitler banned prominent Jewish athletes and tried to showcase his fascist regime to the world.

A number of Coca-Cola’s executives in Germany were public members of the Nazi party.

It advertised in Nazi propaganda, including leaflets for the Hitler Youth.

More recently Coca-Cola’s Colombian contractors have been found complicit in the murders of trade union activists by right wing paramilitaries.

ADIDAS and NIKE clash

As the crimes of the Olympic partners go, it borders on insignificant.

But the corporate priorities of the games could be exposed by a bizarre clash in sponsorship deals.

British athletes have all had to sign up to wear the team’s Adidas kit “at all times during the games period when you are in or at an Olympic venue”.

But some of the leading lights in Britain’s Olympic team, including Mark Cavendish and Mo Farah, have lucrative sponsorship deals of their own—with Adidas’s rival Nike.

They will be allowed to wear Nike shoes while competing, as this would count as technical equipment.

But if they were to win, they would have to take them off before stepping onto the podium.

The only way to comply with the demands of both sponsors will be to collect medals in bare feet.

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Article information

Tue 13 Mar 2012, 18:13 GMT
Issue No. 2294
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