Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Shining Illustration of a Dangerous Truth: London 2012

Christopher Dekki, a 2012 St. John's Law School graduate, has written an excellent essay on corporate influence and the Olympic Games.  I've posted Chris' insightful observations below.

Essay by Chris Dekki

The imagery is powerful. The symbolism is deeply imbedded in countless minds. The victories are an unmatched source of pride for millions of people. There are few things in the world more alluring than a grand competition where athletes (although no longer vying for dominance in the nude and to the exclusion of women) come together from every region of the world under the banner of the colorful Olympic rings. Undoubtedly, the Olympic games are important events both throughout history and in the present. Their existential purpose is to remind governments about the unshakeable unity of the single human family. Even the most cynical person cannot deny being moved by the sight a young athlete beaming with pride as he or she holds up a gold medal for the entire world to see. Yes, whether played out in the warmth of the summer or the cold of a snowy winter, the Olympic games are truly a spectacle to be experienced. Now, keeping all of this excitement and pride in mind, there is one reality that logically follows from the abundant Olympic hoopla: audience. The Olympics attract a massive, truly global audience that is ready to be mesmerized by feats of strength, skill, and courage. Thus, wherever there are willing consumers ready to submit to the pleasures of entertainment, there is businesspeople lying in wait, prepared to pounce on the lucrative whims of the masses. To many people, the Olympics are much more than simply an opportunity for humanity to come together in peace and harmony for some innocent athletic amusement. To the business-minded, the Olympics are an unmatched golden opportunity upon which only a fool would elect not to capitalize.

This year’s summer Olympics in London are no exception to previous tried and true business models. A quick glance at the list of “partners” of the 2012 Olympics demonstrates the critical function of corporations in the development of the games. These corporations have served as promoters, supporters, and goods and services suppliers to the organizers in London. Without their assistance, the games would most likely not be as cost-effective, profitable, or ostentatious. Nevertheless, entrenched in this major corporate position in the London games, is a reflection of the role corporations play in the everyday lives of human beings throughout the globe. As the recent revolts of the Occupy Wall Street movement have revealed, corporations wield outsized influence over the decisions of lawmakers in parliaments and legislatures from North America to Asia. Thanks to the corrupting nature of money, leaders in government, desperate to retain their tenuous elected positions, have transformed into pawns in which wealthy corporate players can buy and sell their political loyalties. In this modern era of complex local, national, regional, and international governance, it is the wealthy who have the capacity to play the biggest part in the world’s intricate political game. Undoubtedly, because of this global reality, it is the international corporate elites who surely exert the greatest authority over the international system.

Certain areas of the law have been especially affected by the financial might of corporations. In terms of public health law, corporations have been particularly successful in swaying the development of legislation. As the latest nutritional policy debacle in the United States Congress has shown, not even school children are safe from the power of lobbyists and corporate interest groups. Due to the efforts of organizations like the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI), federal dietary regulations now promote the consumption of pizza as part of a child’s healthy daily school meal plan. Truly, this logic-defying state of affairs can best be understood by this horrifying statement: “‘This agreement [in Congress] ensures that nutrient-rich vegetables such as potatoes, corn and peas will remain part of a balanced, healthy diet in federally funded school meals and recognizes the significant amounts of potassium, fiber and vitamins A and C provided by tomato paste, ensuring that students may continue to enjoy healthy meals such as pizza and pasta,’ said Kraig Naasz, president of the American Frozen Food Institute.” Yes, thanks to the noble efforts of men like Kraig Naasz and his colleagues at the AFFI, children can now enjoy healthy servings of pizza and pasta at school. Truly, there is no better brain food for developing minds than a greasy helping of frozen cheese pizza topped with a mere smudge of antioxidant packed tomato paste. Notwithstanding the negligent health benefits of a spoonful of canned tomato paste, there is a serious connection between government frozen food regulations in the United States and the numerous corporate sponsorships of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. At the very pinnacle of health and fitness stands the greatest athletic competition in the history of mankind: the Olympics. In promoting the value of sport and physical vigor, the Olympics should theoretically transcend the mighty vice grip of corporations over the direction of national and international public health policy. Nevertheless, some of the very corporations that have greatly affected public health have managed to secure a position of influence over the London Olympics. Some of the guiltiest of these corporate offenders are Coca Cola, McDonalds, Dow Chemical, BP, and several others. Yet these corporations are featured partners in what is supposed to be the greenest, most environmentally friendly, most sustainable games in history. Some of these corporate entities are not only swaying public health policy for the worst, they are also guilty of highly destructive environmental disasters that have had long-lasting effects on human health and environmental sustainability.

The 2012 London Olympics are a lens through which the pervasiveness of corporate influence over national and international public health law and policy can be analyzed. The London games are a microcosm of a larger international problem that has reared its ugly head on every continent. As the world struggles with the harmful effects of oil spills, chemical catastrophes, and decadent fast food, the corporations at the helm of selfish political activism have now successfully conquered London. They have shamelessly inserted themselves into an event that is meant to showcase some of humanity’s greatest attributes. Now, the Olympics are nothing more than free advertising for a group of corporations that have done little in the recent past besides earn exorbitant profits at the expense of human welfare. So as the world sits back, bites into a Big Mac, sips on a coke, and remains fixated on the Olympics, hopefully more people will recognize the sheer hypocrisy of it all.

(photo of London Olympic Clock by Chitrapa courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Very insightful, but such a disappointing reality. It seems that too many traditions that are meant to exemplify the best of us, are being hijacked by greed and deception.