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Getting a taste of the Olympics

Betty Crocker joins Olympic movement at Salt Lake

With Christmas out of the way the countdown – or hype and hysteria, depending on your point of view – for the Salt Lake City Olympics has begun. For the next month television viewers, newspaper readers and Web surfers will increasingly be bombarded with information about the first Games of the new millennium.

The Olympics are many things. They are about sport, about striving for excellence, about nations coming together for friendly competition, about national pride. And of course they are all about money.

There are few aspects of the Olympics that don’t come with a price tag, and there is no shortage of companies willing to pay to be part of the Games. The Salt Lake City Olympics have official suppliers for everything from metal detectors (Garrett Metal Detectors) to natural gas (Questar). Naturally they also have official suppliers of food and drink.

Korbel Champagne Cellars is the official supplier of sparkling wine. The winning athletes at Salt Lake won’t be handed bottles of champagne on the podium to shake up and spray everyone within a 10-metre radius, as Grand Prix race winners are, but even in Utah (where you have to ask for a wine list in restaurants) there will be opportunities to celebrate with a little bubbly.

To get Olympic athletes going in the morning there will be plenty of Kellogg cereals on breakfast tables in the Olympic village. Kellogg Company has supported American Olympic teams since 1923. The company will also be supplying Pop-Tarts and Eggo waffles.

The milk that Olympians will be pouring on the Kellogg cereals at Salt Lake will be supplied by Smith’s, a western regional division of the Kroger Company that is the official dairy milk supplier to the 2002 Games.

The Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) knew there would be some cold Utah afternoons for Olympic athletes to contend with, and nothing warms an Olympian up and makes them feel good inside like a bowl of hot soup. So they made the Campbell Soup Company the official soup supplier. Campbell is also supporting the U.S. Olympic team by selling a series of limited edition soup mugs.

And what’s an Olympics without an official nut? We’re not talking about Eddie (The Eagle) Edwards, the near-sighted British ski jumper. Diamond of California, the world's largest processor of walnuts and marketer of a variety of culinary and in-shell nuts, is an official supplier of "heart-healthy nut products." Diamond says its involvement is part of its long-term commitment to educating Americans about the health benefits of walnuts and other nuts.

Nuts aren’t the only thing available for Olympic athletes to snack on, there’s also Bugles. Bugles are one of the products that General Mills is supplying to the Games. Others include Yoplait yogurt, Bisquick and the aptly named Gold Medal baking products, and Pop Secret Popcorn.

General Mills is also sending in one of their heavy weights to take care of the athletes. Betty Crocker has been given Olympic credentials and will be supplying Betty Crocker Helper Dinner mixes, Fruit Snacks and baking products. American Olympic athletes are familiar with Betty’s contributions to the team; General Mills was an official supplier to the 1998 U.S. Olympic Team in Nagano and was an official sponsor of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

But when the U.S. Olympic Team went looking for an Official Nutritional Energy Bar Supplier they bypassed Betty. Instead they turned to PowerBar, which will "provide the U.S. Olympic Team unlimited access to its nutritional energy bars, including PowerBar Performance energy bars, PowerBar Harvest bars, PowerBar Protein Plus and PowerBar Pria…"

PowerBar and Betty Crocker would appear to be a formidable one-two punch for the U.S. Olympic Team, perhaps providing American athletes that slight advantage that will help them to take the gold medal in curling.

Hosting the Winter Olympics is not just an opportunity to show your stuff on race courses and in rinks but at the dinner table, too. One area where SLOC has shown bold, forward thinking is in naming Usinger’s Famous Sausage as the official Olympic hot dog of the Salt Lake Games.

"Rather than just serving any hot dog, we decided we would focus on the highest quality we could find," said Don Pritchard, SLOC Director of Food Services. "Part of our commitment was to redefine what the American hot dog could be."

For athletes and visitors from say, Korea, redefining the American hot dog won’t mean too much, because they probably didn’t understand tube steaks in the first place. They won’t appreciate that the Salt Lake City Olympic hot dogs are made in Milwaukee by Fred Usinger Inc., a licensee of Certified Angus Beef, the Official Branded Beef Supplier to the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and the Official Supplier of Packaged and Processed Beef to the U.S. Olympic Team.

Beyond the official suppliers to the Salt Lake City Olympics there are official partners. Budweiser, for example, has provided money and beer to the United States Olympic Team and the U.S. Olympic Committee, as well as the 2002 Games. In return, you’ll be seeing lots of ads for Budweiser, and other Anheuser-Busch brands, that are linked to the Olympics and the U.S. teams.

And at the very top end of the sponsorship/official supplier food chain are The Olympic Partners. These are companies that are world-wide Olympic sponsors and provide financial support to 198 national Olympic committees, as well as organizing committees for each Olympic Games. It should come as no surprise that Coca-Cola and McDonald’s Restaurants are among The Olympic Partners, or that their products will have exclusive rights at Salt Lake City.

The Coca-Cola Company is the longest continuous corporate partner of the Olympics, an association that began in 1928. Coca-Cola’s current contract with the Olympics continues through 2008, but if the 2010 Games are held in Whistler there’s a good chance Coca-Cola products will be part of it.

You’ll also be seeing McDonald’s Olympic-related ads and promotions for the next month and a half. McDonald’s will operate restaurants in the Olympic Village and at Games venues, including the International Broadcast Centre and the main press centre.