Nutrition & the Olympic Games Villages

There are special challenges for the suppliers of food for the athletes at the Olympic Village. Not only do they need to feed the thousands of athletes, there are nearly as many coaches, officials and volunteers. These people will be from over 200 countries, each with their peculiar cultures and food needs. Each athlete wishes to get the best food to help them specifically reach their goals at the Games, and the dining halls must cater for all of this and more.

The danger for athletes is that all of this wonderful food from around the world will be a temptation for them to vary from their routines. The selection of food would be mind boggling, especially for athletes with limited food choices back home. It is a great opportunity for them to experience food from other cultures, but they need to wait until after their events before over indulging.

At the first athlete village in Paris 1924, the competitors were offered three meals a day. Dinner included soup, a main meat course and desert, with wine or beer provided at lunch and dinner. 

For the 1948 Olympic Games in London, the first Olympics since the war, food shortages meant that each country was asked to bring food for its own athletes. Things have changed a lot since then, with the food supply to the athletes in the Olympic Village a huge undertaking.

Athletes enjoying a meal at the Olympic Village dining hall Athletes enjoying a meal at the Olympic Village food hall
(from the Olympic Games Official Report Tokyo 1964)

Nowadays the food supplied at the Olympic Village is always of good quality. It is when the athletes stray from the village that they have to be careful about the quality of the food and the drinkability of the water. This is particularly important when in countries like China in 2008 where the food hygiene standards may not be as high as in the US or in other western countries.

With so many athletes, and with the current understanding of nutrition and medicine, there will be many athletes who require a specific diet. Not all of them will be able to be catered for, though diets such as halal, gluten free, lactose free, nut free and vegetarian (vegan) would be expected to be on the menu.

Below are links to some notes about the Olympic Village food provision from many Olympic Games, from one of the first Olympic Villages in Los Angeles in 1932, until the current Games in Tokyo.

See also some notes about the food service at the Commonwealth Games.

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