A general view of a McDonald's restaurant in Tokyo, Japan. According to reports, US hamburger and fast food restaurant chain McDonald's announced it was ending its longtime sponsorship with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). McDonald's has been the official restaurant for Olympic Games since 1996. EPA

BERLIN: US fast-food giant McDonald’s has ended its 41-year-long Olympic Games sponsorship deal three years early, the International Olympic Committee said on Friday.

McDonald’s, a sponsor since 1976 and part of the IOC’s top sponsors programme that contributes more than US$1 billion in every four-year cycle for the Games, had a contract running through the 2020 Tokyo summer Olympics.

“In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, we understand that McDonald’s is looking to focus on different business priorities,” Timmo Lumme, managing director of IOC Television and Marketing Services, said in a statement.

Financial terms of the separation were not disclosed.

While it is unusual for an Olympic sponsor to leave early, sponsors change regularly within the IOC’s top programme. The most recent addition was China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd , which signed a deal in January for a partnership through 2028.

“As part of our global growth plan, we are reconsidering all aspects of our business and have made this decision in cooperation with the IOC to focus on different priorities,” McDonald’s Global Chief Marketing Officer Silvia Lagnado said.

McDonald’s has been tightening costs as it invests in improving its food quality, restaurant service and online ordering to woo back diners in the United States, where intense competition has gnawed away at sales.

The company, first involved with the Games in 1968, was its food retail sponsor. Despite pulling out with immediate effect, McDonald’s will continue at next year’s Pyeongchang winter Olympics as sponsors with domestic marketing rights.

The IOC said it was not planning a direct replacement for McDonald’s.

The IOC has faced criticism from public health campaigners for allowing sponsors such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s to use the Games as an opportunity to market their products, which are perceived to be unhealthy, in contrast to what the event seeks to promote. --REUTERS

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