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June 2, 2008

McDonald's Has No Beijing Shame In Cairo

While walking through the streets of Cairo's Mohandeseen neighborhood Monday evening, this lineup of 8-foot-tall ads caught my eye, only because I don't think I've seen anything so proud in New York or on US commercials for months, if at all:


One has to dig pretty deep into McDonald's US website to find any mention of its Olympic sponsorship at all, and even here the words "Beijing" and "2008" are conspicuously missing - the page doesn't even seem to have been updated since the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics.

Business Wire reports that sponsorship of the 2008 Olympics is predicted to be a record waste of money. Citing ills from Darfur to Tibet to press censorship, Beijing's critics have not only been hammering the People's Republic but also the sponsors of the 2008 games, who they say are complicit with bolstering China's image abroad and keeping an oppressive regime in power.

Massive gains to be had in the Chinese market from sponsoring the games notwithstanding, Beijing 2008 sponsors must nonetheless be asking themselves if it will be worth the backlash in the West to be seen working with Beijing.

But in Hosni Mubarak's Egypt, a country now closing in 30 years of emergency rule, McDonald's is clearly unafraid to fly its Olympics flag loud and proud.

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