For more than 80 years, The Coca-Cola Company has brought fans and athletes a unique and memorable Olympic experience through its partnership with the International Olympic Committee. In that time, Canada has been host to three Olympic Games – each one more successful than the last – that Coca-Cola has been proud to help support.
The Amsterdam 1928 Olympics marked the debut of The Coca-Cola Company's Olympic involvement, when a freighter arrived with the U.S. Olympic Team and 1,000 cases of Coca-Cola. Vendors sold the bottled drink from kiosks located around the Olympic Stadium and the rowing course, but – with the exception of customized bulletins created by an American art student and placed over each of the entrances to the stadium – no advertising or promotional materials connected Coca-Cola to the games. 1928 was also the first time Olympic competitions were held for women (track and field events) and the tradition of the Olympic flame was revived from ancient times.
The Montreal 1976 Olympics have been the only Summer Games held in Canada and proved to be a challenge since some of the venues were spread across the region. Despite the difficulties, Coca-Cola bottlers helped to supply the 15 competition sites in Montreal and beyond. In the end it took two years of planning to coordinate the 70 bottling plants that helped serve refreshing Coca-Cola beverages to visitors and athletes alike during the games.
To help the Canadian athletes prepare for The Olympics in Montreal, Coca-Cola in conjunction with the Canadian Olympic Association (COA) helped to raise $350,000 (nearly $1.5 million in 2017 dollars) through a combination of Coca-Cola funding and public support. The campaign, entitled “Let’s Get Together”, used radio and TV to urge people to send $2 to their local bottler to be used for training, coaching and equipment.
The "Coca-Cola World Chorus" performed at the opening and closing ceremonies at the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics. Composed of 43 young people from 23 countries, the chorus performed the signature song of the Games -- "Can’t You Feel It?" Calgary 1988 also saw the debut of the first Coca-Cola Official Olympic Pin Trading Center, which quickly became another Olympic tradition and the No. 1 "spectator sport." The Pin Trading Center became a meeting point in Calgary where more than 17,000 visitors gathered daily.
The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics were deemed a huge success as the torch relay and pin trading were now considered a natural part of Coca-Cola’s commitment to the Olympic spirit. The torch relay lasted over 100 days with 12,000 torch-bearers visiting multiple communities across Canada. It proved to be the longest distance within a country for any torch relay. Coca-Cola also sponsored the torch relay for the Paralympic Games held in Vancouver in March.
As the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics approach, Coca-Cola will continue the longest running relationship with the Olympic movement of any Olympic sponsor. The lessons learned from the three Olympic Games held in Canada only help as Coca-Cola continues to develop unique and memorable programs for all the visitors to The Winter Olympics next year.
Justine Fletcher is an archive specialist at The Coca-Cola Company and is currently helping Coca-Cola Canada celebrate 120 years of refreshing Canadians as part of Canada 150.