Just how ethical are the 2012 Olympics?

“It’s not about the winning, but the making of the money.”

It’s not really fair trade and it’s not as green as promised. Worse, LOCOG have proven itself to be exploitative and totally out of touch with today’s ethical consumer.

A recent Telegraph article pointed out how LOCOG had decided not to pay performers or musicians (or even give them free tickets) yet it’s happy to dish out £200m to G4S, to caterers, gardeners, architects, lawyers, accountants, and the rest, plus a lot of over priced consultants.

But when it comes to talented performers…they aren’t considered worth paying. Makes you wonder where all that £9,300,000,000 is going (part of which every Londoner is paying for)?

Ironically LOCOG was quoted as saying, “…the closing ceremony will celebrate the fact that music has been one of Britain’s strongest cultural exports over the last 50 years with a symphony of British music.”

Music has also been one of the UK’s great earners, our Creative Economy is the second biggest generator of income for the UK (which begs the question, with so much talent how did we manage to design the ugliest logo of all time?). But by devaluing creativity to ‘not worth paying for’ status LOCOG is insulting the entire creative community. And no water they say in defense, actions speak louder than words.

They have written to many performers asking them to “volunteer”. LOCOG then tried to defend it’s blanket decision not to pay musicians when challenged by the Musicians Union, who were naturally outraged. In reply they claimed they were only approaching ’amateur’ musicians and this would be an opportunity for them.

And to add insult to injury, they have banned musicians selling CDs and in some case even tried to charge musicians for playing.

This is probably one of the worse examples of exploitation of creatives I’ve come across. As a consequence, creative are now talking about boycotting all sponsors.

By the way, the Olympics have 5 official songs, not one – well that’s committee’s for you.


I’m rarely a critic of McDonalds (I actually think they are a good company) but I am not surprised a recent survey that said the public didn’t think that McDonalds and the Olympics are a good fit. No **** Sherlock! Fast food has it’s place, but not as the official restaurant of the mega fit and healthy. But then Whole Foods don’t have the deep pockets to buy their way in.

Food and drinks are banned from being taken in so contractors can charge marked up rates, so I’ve been told. Hardly ethical.

A good few of the sponsors/supports are dubious in their ethical credentials too. I’m not sure why a chocolate brand, a sugary fizzy drink should be associated with health & fitness. But then it’s not about values but the value of the sponsorship. I’m sure if the ‘Pure Fat Lard Co’ or the ‘High Sugar Baby Food Co’ came up with £200m each they’d get their names on the show.

Sportswear, like Adidas, I can buy but an oil, energy or chemical company? And one of which has one of the worse recent environmental records? How is that good for the Olympics? What relevance does it even have to sport?

Even WWF have commented in ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’, David Nussbaum says, “EDF and BP fall flat on their faces at the first hurdle, both having very poor track records on green issues”. [See link below]

And as for green…well they promised a lot but didn’t deliver a lot of it. To be fair, the suppliers have managed to meet the demands of the CSL (the group responsible for green issues). The renewable energy target will not be met, because a wind energy project was cancelled, and over 160,000 litres of diesel will be needed for generators. All the buildings and infrastructure will need an estimated 25 million kWh of power (the amount you’d need to supply a town of over 150,000 people).

In terms of building, “they have done well but would have done a lot better if they hadn’t built it all in the first place”, to quote a comment off one green blog.

And think of the carbon footprint of all those flying in. And the cars, estimated to be an extra 4,000. And then there’s the whole fiasco about private lanes on London’s roads for… who? Not the athletes, they and their team support are all based in the village in East London. For the sponsors.


Meanwhile, while some elements of London, tourism for example will gain, SME’s in London are estimated to loose millions due to the expected mess, disruption, problems with logistics, congestion and staff distracted by it all.

At a cost of £9.3bn it’s the single most expensive sporting event ever. But when we have so much sport available already, could that money have been spent better? Some have suggested tackling the water problems of the third world would be a start – 5,000 people die a day there due lack of access to clean water. I think WaterAid could do a lot with £9.3bn.

Don’t get me wrong, I may not be a sports fan but I do think the Olympics is a good thing, in principle. In terms of values, it’s just it’s not what it started out to be.  And it’s too expensive. And the question no one wants to ask is, do we really need it anymore?

I do wonder if many of the sponsors will get any real return on their investment. Who cares if it carries that ugly logo, we know they paid for it. And do they think by boring us with dull Olympic themed ads we will actually buy them? And when you look at how much they have invested, along with the ad spend, you need to sell a lot to get it back. But never mind, at least the directors wives can cruise up and down their own private lanes between Mayfair shops and the East End.

Overall I think the image of the Olympics couldn’t be further from its original values, all about the purity of sport and amateurism. And it’s certainly not a shinning example of ethics. Instead it’s just one big advert and commercial event. As they probably say at LOCOG, “It’s not about the winning, but the making of the money.”



Check out the latest article ‘Olympic Brand Police To Hit Streets’ on Brand Republic


It raises a number of moral questions. It’s fair to stop illegal traders, especially pirate clothing made in sweat shops. But the fact the British Government have passed laws against guerrilla marketing (surely this is a infringement of human rights) is a little too over zealous.

Protected the use of the word Olympics may seem fair enough but the word ‘London’ – the last time I looked London was in the public domain and not owned by LOCOG. It’s no wonder some people are complaining about totalitarian measures driven by money, many more excessive than those applied in China at the last games.

Well at least they don’t own the term I saw on a t-shirt ‘The Orwellian Games, London 1984’. Says it all.


Sponsors & supporters include: McDonalds, Coca-Cola, P&G, Visa, Samsung, GE, Omega, Adidas, BMW, BA, BT, BP, EDF, Dow, Lloyds TSB, Cadbury, UPS and others. See:


Exploiting musicians.


Olympic sponsors: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly: