| LONDON, July 18
LONDON, July 18 U.S. companies McDonald's
and Coca-Cola said they would waive their right
to tax exemption on earnings from the Olympic Games in London,
an issue that has fuelled criticism of Games sponsors.
British lobby group 38 Degrees has gathered almost 165,000
signatures for an online petition under the banner "Stop Olympic
Tax Dodging" urging sponsors to turn down the tax breaks.
It claimed victory on Wednesday, posting "Two down!" after
both companies confirmed they would not be using the exemption.
However, both companies said they had not planned to use the
exemption, a condition of London's bid to host the Games, and
denied that they had been influenced by the campaign.
"Coca-Cola has never intended to, and will not be making,
any corporate or income tax exemption claim with respect to any
activity concerning our involvement with the London 2012 Olympic
and Paralympic Games," the soft drinks company said.
McDonald's also said its decision was made some time ago and
pre-dated the protest.
The fast food chain said its revenue from the Games would be
less than 0.1 percent of its annual UK sales. The company will
be setting up four temporary restaurants at the Olympic Park
during the Olympics which start on July 27.
Coca-Cola and McDonald's are two of 11 international
companies who pay almost $1 billion to sponsor Winter and Summer
Olympics over a four-year cycle.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques
Rogge has praised the two companies after he was initially
quoted as saying there was a "question mark" over their
sponsorship due to obesity concerns.
Foreign athletes competing in the Games are also exempt from
British income tax. Sports stars who come to Britain for other
tournaments are normally liable to pay tax on their earnings and
a proportion of their worldwide endorsement income.