Big M comes through like greased lightning to strike gold

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Justin Gatlin may have burst to glory in the men's 100m on Sunday night, but these are also turning into a golden Games for the golden arches.

As the “Official Restaurant” of the Olympic Games, the McDonald's hamburger chain always expected to flip a few burgers in Athens. It estimates that its three Olympic food service venues - at the Olympic village, the main stadium complex and the media centre - will get through “2m meat patties, 404,469lbs of potatoes and 26,455lbs of lettuce” during the Games.

But what it cannot have bargained for - or indeed dreamt of - is that US swimmer Michael Phelps, the phenomenon who won six golds and two bronzes in the Olympic pool, would proclaim the end of his active participation at Athens with the words: “It's McDonald's time”.

After his first day off, a demob happy Phelps was delighted to provide more information. “I had a Big Mac and that's all I had. I had McDonald's for both meals today. Two meals so far...Double cheeseburgers.”

You just cannot buy that sort of publicity. And no, I've checked, Phelps is not a McDonald's-sponsored athlete. Yet.

As part of what it calls its “proud tradition of serving the athletes of the world”, McDonald's says it is helping athletes to plan their meals at the Games with “nutritional information and suggestions for meal combinations”.

The company enjoyed another bonus on Sunday, with spectators lining the marathon route in 35 degrees of heat being able to choose between no fewer than five McDonald's restaurants. It was expecting “a very nice bump” in sales as a result.

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