The Importance of Food and Beverage at the Rio Summer Olympics

The Summer Olympic Games are one of the most magnificent sporting events in the world. Millions of fans will gather to watch while the world’s best athletes proudly compete for their countries.

When I think of the Olympic games I think of the popular aspects: the opening and closing ceremonies, the athletes, specific events like pole vaulting and pride for my country’s involvement and success in the games. What I don’t usually think about is food. Unless you are attending the games or are an athlete competing, it’s not a topic of concern. But maybe it should be.

Food safety is a crucial concern for the organizing committee for the Rio Summer Olympics. A single foodborne illness outbreak could ruin a single event and possibly the entire games. How does an organization that large ensure safe food for a community of over six million athletes and spectators from around the world? Very, very carefully.

As part of the preparation for the games, the organizing committee publishes a communication tool called the “Taste of the Games” specifically to guide those handling and preparing food for spectators and athletes. Their mission that is outlined in the communication tool, is to “efficiently deliver fresh, balanced and healthy food and beverage services, respecting ethnic, religious and dietary needs while highlighting the diversity and richness of Brazilian resources.”

One piece that I found interesting as I looked through the “Taste of the Games” was the focus on values as part of the guiding principles for the Olympic games. They lay out their values very clearly in eight principles within the communication tool. The principles include environmental consciousness, hydration, healthy offerings, dietary restrictions, creative innovations, Brazilian cuisine, and carioca cheerfulness. They then take those principles a step further and focus on how food impacts the sensory experience of each participant, whether it be athlete, coach or spectator. For an organization of that size to focus on values to ensure all of their clients receive the best personal experience at their event is impressive.

To continue their focus on customer service, the committee lays out a plan for each client type including what kind of food they will be served and how. They split their clients into three groups: athletes, spectators and Olympic family, and each group has key food values that are outlined. Athlete meals are prepared as sit down meals that meet the appropriate nutritional needs of the athletes. Spectator meals are prepared as “efficient food,” meals that can be eaten quickly on the run with minimal packaging. And Olympic family meals are prepared as gourmet dishes that highlight Brazilian flavors.

On top of all of that they will have signature offerings at different events and locations. For instance, at the beach volleyball competition, the will serve agua de coco in a fresh coconut, a beverage well known from Brazil.

Someday I hope to be lucky enough to have the opportunity to be a spectator at the Olympic games but for now I will have to watch the 2016 Summer Olympics from my couch at home. I will maybe even make myself some agua de coco in a fresh coconut to improve my sensory experience.

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