Coca-Cola was one of the “most polluting (companies) in the world”, with its bottles and cans

Paris Olympic torch

A French environmental charity said it had turned down the chance to take part in the torch relay ahead of the Paris Olympics over the role of Coca-Cola as a major sponsor.

 “Clean My Calanques”, an NGO in Marseille which specialises in beach-cleaning, received funding from the 2024 Paris Olympics organising committee for its work educating school children.

But it announced on Monday that it would not take part in the torch relay which will begin in Marseille on May 8, thanks in part to financing from premium Olympics sponsor Coca-Cola.

“We are not going to carry a flame which is paid for by the same people who make us bend over,” the founder of Clean My Calanques, Eric Akopian, told AFP.


Set up in 2017, the organisation’s volunteers clean beaches around Marseille and in the nearby national Calanques park, whose narrow coves and azure waters make it a popular spot for tourists and locals.

Akopian said Coca-Cola was one of the “most polluting (companies) in the world”, with its bottles and cans some of the products found most frequently during the charity’s beach-combing operations.

In a video message posted on Instagram, he said the organisation had decided it was “not at ease” with the commercial aspects of the Olympics, although he stressed they had “nothing against sports, or the athletes”.

Akopian noted the mass production of so-called “goodies” linked to the Games such as stickers, key rings, pens or mascots.

 “They can seem cute, but we know that we’re going to find them on the coastline,” he told AFP.

French authorities say up to 150,000 people are set to gather in Marseille for the start of the torch relay, which will see the Olympic flame carried through mainland France and the country’s overseas territories in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean.

The Olympics are set to start on July 26 and run until August 11, followed by the Paralympics from August 28-September 8.

Paris 2024 organisers have worked with Coca-Cola to reduce plastic waste from its drinks packaging.

The group has agreed to install 700 newly designed drink fountains at Olympic venues, meaning that around 50 percent of soft drinks will be served without a plastic bottle, according to the organising committee.