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McDonald’s ends longtime Olympic sponsorship 3 years early

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McDonald’s ended its Olympic sponsorship agreement after more than 40 years with the IOC, three years before their current deal runs out.

“In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, we understand that McDonald’s is looking to focus on different business priorities,” Timo Lumme, Managing Director of IOC Television and Marketing Services, said in a press release. “For these reasons, we have mutually agreed with McDonald’s to part ways.”

McDonald’s will still be a PyeongChang 2018 sponsor, with its usual restaurants in the Olympic Park and Olympic Village.

McDonald’s receives plenty of Games-time buzz for its athletes’ village store, where athletes can get food for free.

The IOC has no immediate plans for a sponsor to replace McDonald’s.

McDonald’s airlifted hamburgers to U.S. athletes at the 1968 Grenoble Winter Games after they reported being homesick for American food. The restaurant became an official Olympic sponsor in 1976 and has been ever since.

It made its most headlines at the 1984 Los Angeles Games with a scratch-off promotion — “When the U.S. wins, you win” (commercial here). In a specified event, if the U.S. won gold, the giveaway was a free Big Mac. Silver, a regular order of fries. Bronze, a free Coca-Cola.

McDonald’s ended up giving away more food and drink than it anticipated because the Soviet Union announced a boycott two months before the Games. The U.S. earned 174 medals with 83 golds, about double the amounts from its previous Games.

Perhaps no high-profile Olympic athlete has enjoyed the free Olympic McDonald’s more than Usain Bolt, who famously wrote that he ate 1,000 chicken McNuggets at the 2008 Beijing Games.

In 2012, McDonald’s opened its largest freestanding restaurant in the world at the London Olympic Park for the Games, 32,000 square feet and two floors.

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