Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Race to the Finish, Via a Chocolate Shake

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Race to the Finish, Via a Chocolate Shake

Article excerpt

By now, we all know two things about the catering arrangements at the forthcoming Olympic Games. First, a bottle of beer (German! and not even a patriotic pint of the stuff!) will cost visitors over [pounds sterling]4. And secondly, we'll be playing host to the world's largest McDonald's for the duration of the event. Spectators, it seems, would be well-advised to eat before they go in--but what of the competitors themselves?

Jeni Pearce, head of performance nutrition for Team GB, shrugs off the presence of a 24-hour branch of the burger chain in the Athletes' Village. "After the first day of the Olympics, there must be, what, 300 athletes whose dream is over. So I don't have a problem with McDonald's--I just don't want them around the athletes who are still to compete." She's more concerned with the challenge of catering for diets ranging from 800-4,500 kilocalories a day in a single buffet at the Team GB holding camp in Loughborough: "I put desserts round the corner. If you need one, you can go and get it; if not, you aren't tempted."

Once they get to the Games, however, the team are out of her hands. "Can you imagine walking into the biggest supermarket in the world and it's all free? They have to be focused in the athletes' dining room, and ignore the Magnums and the fries."

Jeni permits only one deviation from the athletes' personalised menu plans: a piece of the opening ceremony cake "but just a tiny one, so it doesn't interfere with their diets". In many sports, a kilogram could make all the difference, she frets. "If you overeat and your uniform's too tight, well, as an archer, you won't shoot right."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Locog's head of catering, Jan Matthews and her team will be serving 65,000 meals in the main athletes' dining room on the busiest day of the Games--which, along with catering to nine million spectators and 22, 000 media visitors, puts her in charge of the biggest peacetime catering organisation in the world. …

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