When Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt won the men’s 100-meter gold at the London Olympics, he told reporters he had eaten a McDonald’s wrap earlier in the day. It was a publicity coup for the fast-food chain that built a temporary restaurant just for the Olympic Games.
The company says it is the biggest and busiest McDonald’s in the world. The two-story restaurant inside the Olympic Park is around 300 meters from the Olympic Stadium and has been flooded with visitors to the games.
With a capacity to seat about 1,500 people and hundreds of staff on hand, it is churning out its trademark fast food for the duration of the Games.
At the busiest times the staff serves 1,000 customers in just an hour. Before the end of the games, McDonald’s says it will have served around 50,000 Big Macs.
“It has been a long journey,” said the chief executive of McDonald’s UK, Jill McDonald, at a press conference in the Olympic Park. “So we first started working on the Olympics in the UK five years ago. So it is really exciting to walk into restaurants, see our crew who are really buzzy, see athletes and the media and customers buying food from us and enjoying it. It is great to see it finally come to life.”
McDonald’s has been sponsoring the Olympics for almost 40 years. Activists and nutrition experts have said it is not the right company to promote health and sport.
They say the food is high in fat, sugar and salt, and low in nutrients.
The company disagrees. “I do not think it is a valid criticism, because we offer a breadth of menu that people can enjoy as part of a balanced lifestyle so we have more indulgent options but we also have lighter options,” said McDonald’s.
But on the streets of the city, many Londoners said they were not too happy about McDonald’s sponsoring their games.
“It is a bit of a contradiction in terms to think of a fast food giant as a sponsor for high-class athletes that probably would not touch McDonald’s,” said a Londoner.
“It does not sit too comfortably with me, having big organizations – especially ones which are not that conducive to healthy living – being involved in sponsoring big sporting events like the Olympics,” said a man.
Others look at it differently.
“In all honesty they are such a large corporation, they are able to fund and sponsor such a large amount of money, so I can understand why it would upset people that an unhealthy brand sponsors sport, but unfortunately that is the way of the world,” said another man.
The McDonald’s in the Olympic Park was built just for the games, to feed the tens of thousands of people there every day. It will be torn down when the games are over and McDonald’s says 75 percent of the materials will be re-used at other company restaurants in Britain.
The fast food chain has already extended its Olympic Sponsorship until 2020.