The Olympic Food Vision
2012 offers so much to look forward to! Not only are Oxfam continuing to tour with Coldplay, starting in Edmonton, Canada on 17 April, but this is the year that Great Britain, that little island which Coldplay call home, will host the 27th Summer Olympic Games in London, England on 27 July.
The Olympics is a huge cultural event, which spans not only the world of sport, but many other aspects of our lives. Its athletes are positive role models for young people and it is a great opportunity to teach our children about the rich and diverse cultures of the many countries competing.
But what about the food? It might not be the first thing you think of when you think about the Olympics, but add up all the millions of spectators and the thousands of athletes, officials and media and that’s a lot of hungry mouths to feed! It has been estimated that 14 million meals will need to be made in the Olympic village alone. Is it going to be possible to provide healthy, nutritious, good-value and ethnically diverse food to satisfy that many people?
Running on leftovers
The catering of the 2012 Olympic games will be the largest non-humanitarian/peace-time feeding operation in history, ever. Compared to the last time Britain hosted the games, in 1948, in the shadow of World War Two, things are very different. Food, then, was still being rationed in Britain. British 200m runner Silvia Cheeseman remembers being very envious of the American athletes’ packed lunches:
“The Americans had their lunch provided by their country, but we had to bring our own. They would often not finish their boxes, so when they’d gone, the British athletes would take the food they’d left!
Seeing all this unusual food we’d never seen before, of course we ate it! It was a case of the British getting the crumbs from the rich man’s table.”
While some things have changed (we’ll be feeding our athletes this time!) the food system still puts some at the top of the food chain, with those at the bottom not able to reach what they need. With countries like Haiti, Tanzania, El Salvador, and Azerbaijan competing, their athletes might be thinking about the people back home who aren’t getting enough to eat, due to rising food prices, or the small-farmers not able to grow enough food to sell to market because drastic climate changes have made their crops fail.
In 1948, the Americans swept the medal board. Maybe this had something to do with the fact that they were fit and strong, having access to plenty of food without rationing. Countries that can feed the majority of their population well, like Australia and Canada, often steam ahead at the Olympics. This shows how big an impact a lack of regular and nutritious food can have on an entire country.
Flexing our consumer muscles
The Olympics is a chance for us to show our power and influence as consumers. The fact that all the fish at the Olympics is sustainably fished, all the meat is farm-assured and all the tea and coffee is fairtrade, shows that the big brands know we are coming to expect better standards from them.
Watching countries showcase their best sportswomen and men is a chance to think about the food that comes from that country, who grows it and whether they are being treated fairly, and make better choices about the products we buy. When you see Usain Bolt from Jamaica on the Gold podium (inevitable!), why not think about the next time you buy bananas? Caribbean bananas are grown on small family owned farms using more sustainable methods of production than those used on the huge monoculture plantations in Latin America. There’s an easy shopping choice right there.
Here are some foodie facts for you. To feed the crowds and all those hungry athletes, this Olympic village will produce:
25,000 loaves of bread
232 tonnes of potatoes
More than 82 tonnes of seafood
31 tonnes of poultry items
More than 100 tonnes of meat
75,000 litres of milk
19 tonnes of eggs
21 tonnes of cheese
More than 330 tonnes of fruit and vegetables
We’d love to know which athletes you’ll be cheering for and the country you’ll be supporting. Let us know in the comments!
Image from www.london2012.com. Silvia’s quote from the Food Programme: London 2012, Coke and McDonalds on BBC Radio Four (15 January)