By Hannah Scott
Ah, the Summer Olympic Games: a favorite viewing pastime for sports lovers across the globe. It’s also an ideal opportunity for sponsors to establish brand loyalty with the spectators. Not surprisingly, major water bottling corporations are jumping at the chance to push their bluewashing, water-for-profit agenda.
In fact Coca-Cola, the parent company of the bottled water brand Dasani, plans on using this year’s games to attract new customers in the United Kingdom (they were also a very visible presence at the recent UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro). In 2004, Coca-Cola failed to enter the UK market when local newspapers revealed that Dasani is merely “purified” tap water, much to the outrage of customers. Making matters worse, Coca-Cola ultimately had to pull Dasani from shelves the same year it debuted after carcinogenic bromates were found contaminating the brand.
Four years later, Coca-Cola purchased Abbey Well, a small, locally-owned bottled water company that sells spring water. In doing so, Coca-Cola did not stick with the Dasani brand name, as it would certainly have reminded customers of the train wreck that ensued in 2004. Instead, they branded it under the Schweppes label, although the new Olympic design downplays that fact.
Due to the strict and controversial brand exclusivity rules that prohibit non-sponsor advertisement, Abbey Well will be the sole bottled water provider at Olympic events for both spectators and athletes. Moreover, a brand new design of Abbey Well has been crafted especially for the Olympics and is meant to instill a sense of “national pride.” But this doesn’t detract from the fact that big bottling companies often take water from municipal or groundwater sources that local residents depend on for drinking, sanitation, recreation and more.
Since athletes must drink a lot of water to stay hydrated, we encourage them to take back the tap by forgoing bottled water and drinking tap water in refillable water bottles. After all, when it comes to fostering a healthy environment and a healthy you, tap water medals over bottled every single time.
Hannah Scott is a Food & Water Watch summer water research and policy intern and a senior at American University.