Coke Chairman Unapologetic Over Beijing Olympics Sponsorship

09 July 2008

ATLANTA: The Coca-Cola Company has no regrets about its sponsorship of the Beijing Olympic Games, says chairman Neville Isdell, despite the surrounding controversy over China's policies in Tibet.

In an interview with UK business daily, the Financial Times, Isdell said the world's biggest soft drinks maker supports the general "credo" and ideals of the Games, and makes its deals years before the venues are known.

Coke's Olympic involvement began in 1928 with the Amsterdam event. It also sponsored the Berlin Games in 1936 - a decision Isdell says he would have backed had he been in charge 72 years ago.

He declared: "The sponsorship would have been committed four or five years ahead of that, and don't forget Neville Chamberlain was in Berlin on a very popular mission to talk to Hitler.

"Not everything was known in 1938 and the Olympics were in 1936."

Isdell believes this summer's extravaganza will help open up China to the world and he plans to personally carry the symbolic Olympic torch on the opening day next month.

He maintains the Games are a force for good: "If they were not a force for good, we would not sponsor them."

He also defended Coke's role in the worldwide obesity debate, claiming the problem lay chiefly with lack of exercise, rather than with the consumption of high-calorie food and drinks.

He said: "It is about physical activity and if you look at the overall calorie intake around the world it has not increased in the developed world. What has happened is that the level of physical activity has decreased."

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff