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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Food Fueling the Olympics

It's no secret that when the Olympics come to your country, the whole world is watching. According to the BBC, a record 4.8 billion people will watch the games this summer, making the 2012 London Olympics the most-watched event in history. That's a whole lot of eyes on the United Kingdom.

This summer also marks record number of sports broadcasting hours, the introduction of live 3D broadcasting, and an International Broadcast Centre that could house 5 jumbo jets abreast. But more interesting to me (and certainly more relevant to this blog) is the idea of all these people -- competitors, trainers, media personel, spectators, and the influx of temporary workers to the Olympic Village and surrounding businesses -- somehow getting fed.

The debate on how to feed the 2012 Olympics goes back as far as 2006, when it was announced that McDonald's would be one of the sponsors of the games. Prior to that, the London 2012 organizing committee (called Locog) had insisted that as much food as possible would be locally sourced, organic, and/or fair trade (as applicable). But with a lineup of sponsors that also includes Coca-Cola and Cadbury, how could they balance this goal with the need for major sponsors? A few concerned groups, including the National Obesity Forum and the London Green Party, urged Locog to make use of the unique opportunity to influence the way the entire world eats.

In the end, it looks like the many organizing groups did a great job of making accommodations for both concerns. Among the considerations outlined in their Food Vision are:
  • Offering a wide variety of food to accommodate all types of diets.
  • Representing British cuisine accurately and in an attractive way (no jokes, please).
  • Designing menus based on seasonal ingredients.
  • Responsibly sourcing ingredients (all dairy, beef, lamb, and poultry are from the UK).
  • Bolstering British business long term by building catering and other sourcing businesses sustainably.
I think we should applaud their attempts to bring attention to waste, biodiversity, and healthy living. These are increasingly important topics of discussion, and global stages like the Olympics offer rare but excellent opportunities to effect change. Food is not just about tasting good (although this is, of course, a major consideration); it is also literally the fuel that powers us. By directing attention to these issues, the 2012 Olympic committee has shown the world that these concerns are relevant and important. Well done, Locog, and go USA!

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