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UPDATE: Olympic sponsors and the tar sands, water commodification

The Toronto Star reports today on various corporate sponsors of the Olympics.

THE ROYAL BANK
“The Royal Bank of Canada, which paid $110 million for the rights to the Vancouver 2010 and London 2012 Games, says (sponsoring the Olympics is) well worth it. ‘It’s the biggest marketing platform in the world. We’ve been at this for 60-plus years. It’s something that has allowed us to grow our brand and drive our business,’ says Jim Little, RBC’s chief brand and communications officer. …Olympic sponsors spend almost as much again creating their ad campaigns, he said. RBC went a step further this year and co-sponsored the Olympic Torch Relay, paying an additional undisclosed fee for that right. The bank ran an online contest for consumers and employees. The prize was a spot as a Torch Bearer. The site received more than one million hits, of whom 500,000 gave the bank permission to market to them, Little said.”

PETRO-CANADA
“Bombarding TV viewers in the run-up to the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver (are commercials such as) Olympic-branded Petro-Canada drinking glasses roll down icy chutes…”

The Council of Canadians Statement on the 2010 Olympic Winter Games highlights that, “The Royal Bank of Canada and Petro Canada, both National Partners for the 2010 Games, are directly involved in the Alberta tar sands, one of the most environmentally destructive projects in the world. The Royal Bank is a major financier of tar sands projects and is also a sponsor of the Torch Relay. Ironically, their ad campaigns for the relay ask individuals to make a ‘green pledge’ by volunteering to carry the torch. The Council of Canadians is campaigning for no new approvals in the tar sands and a halt to any development infrastructure designed to increase the capacity of tar sands exploitation.”

COCA-COLA
“The value of global sponsorship rights – what the International Olympic Committee calls its TOP sponsors (TOP stands for The Olympic Program) – the kind held by Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, nearly quadrupled to $866 million (since 1994).”

Our statement says, “A Worldwide Olympic Partner, Coca Cola (also a sponsor of the Torch Relay), is notorious for depleting groundwater in areas of India and Latin America with scarce water resources. Furthermore, Coca Cola is a leading promoter of water commodification as one of the largest producers of bottled water in the world. The Council of Canadians is actively promoting bottled water bans in communities across the country, and has grave concerns about the impact of Coca Cola’s sponsorship on public water infrastructure support in Vancouver and Whistler.”

THE COUNCIL OF CANADIANS
In December 2009, the Canadian Press reported Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow saying, “I think the corporate stranglehold has really grown, and it’s really time for us to name it. I would rather the Olympics are what we wish they were. I would like the Olympic Games to be out of the hands of corporations.”

To read our Statement on the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, please go to http://canadians.org/olympics/statement.html.

DAY OF ACTION
The Indigenous Environmental Network, Rainforest Action Network, Oilsandstruth, UK Tar Sands Network and many other organizations are holding a day of action on Saturday February 13 in opposition to Olympic-sponsors the Royal Bank of Canada and Petro Canada/Suncor and their tar sands projects. More on this at http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/newsrelease/2613.