McDonald's? They're great for youth sport, says Tony Blair

  • @richardgillis1

Tony Blair has welcomed the presence of Coca-Cola and McDonald's as sponsors of London 2012, saying he sees no conflict between the platform given to the fast food and soft drinks giants and the aim of improving the nation's health.

"We, as a country, have obesity problems as we all know," the former Prime Minister, who has a new role in monitoring the longer term legacy of the Games, told The Independent. "Sport and diet are an important part of that. But I think, everything in its proper place and everything in moderation. I have no problem with McDonald's and Coke being sponsors here. On the contrary I'm very pleased. They would say they are encouraging young people to do sport," he added.

Mr Blair was the star turn at this week's Beyond Sport conference, one of several high-profile appearances in London in the run-up to today's Opening Ceremony.

He used the platform to dismiss cynicism about the motives of businesses sponsoring sport. "People have to be realistic about this. Businesses exist to make a profit for shareholders," Mr Blair said. "But most businesses know their brand relies on how they are perceived about what they do, which is sometimes given the fancy term 'corporate social responsibility'.

"But it is about giving something back. People are cynical. But I say to them, 'Of course companies are doing it because it helps their business and it is good they do that. Don't worry about being cynical about it. The fact they are doing it at all is good'."

Mr Blair also noted how his own relationship with sport had changed in recent years. "I came back to sport aged about 40," he said. "Between leaving university and becoming leader of the Labour Party I didn't do a lot of regular exercise at all.

"At 40, I took up tennis, which I'd never really played before. And now I work out a lot … My equivalents of previous generations of politicians probably wouldn't and you'd be deemed insane if you'd suggested otherwise years ago." He cited the views of Winston Churchill as evidence. "Churchill was once asked how he kept so well. 'Sport' he said. 'I never do it'."