This post was originally written by our Campaigns Manager, Alice, for the Livelighter website: https://livelighter.com.au/news/Time-for-burger-free-Olympics
Last year while watching the Rio Olympics with my two kids, we were bombarded with ads for junk food and drink and not just during the ad breaks. Athletes were interviewed on branded couches with soft drink in front of them. Amazing feats of strength, agility and determination were claimed for junk food, while my young kids looked on. One day on the walk home from preschool, my then four-year-old said: ‘A girl at kinder is really fast Mum. It’s because she eats lots of sugar. Can I eat sugar for dinner Mum? I want to be the fastest person in the World!’
This is what our children think. That junk food and drink are not only consumed by elite athletes, but that it is the cause of their performance. Which is why I welcomed the news this week that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and McDonald’s are parting ways. While this doesn’t appear to have been led by a desire to stop promoting unhealthy food in sport, it does present a unique opportunity for the IOC to examine the healthiness of its other ‘partners’ and the message they send to children.
The picture closer to home is not much rosier. The Australian team’s achievements at the Rio Olympics were back lit by chocolate, burgers and sugary drinks. Through social media and publicity stunts, our athletes and these global junk food brands further reinforced the message to impressionable young kids that unhealthy food and drink go hand in hand with gold medal winning performance. Earlier this year I was excited to see Aussie Apples announce a six-figure sponsorship deal for Netball Australia. This was a welcome healthy change to the raft of junk food sponsors which support our local and elite sporting codes and clubs. I’d love to see the Olympics and others sports follow Netball Australia’s lead.
Parents need a positive environment to reinforce healthy eating habits in our kids. One in four Australian children are an unhealthy weight. We should be encouraging our kids to follow the spirit of the Olympics: faster, higher, stronger – not the spirit of junk food and the raft of serious long-term health problems it offers.