Even if you’re not a huge sports fan, it’s hard not to get immersed in the Olympic Games. How could you not be in awe of Team USA with the Fab Five gymnasts, the Dream Team (version 6.0) and the “The Greatest Swimmer of All Time” to root for? In typical American style, we sent the best of the best and they did us proud with their impressive performances. These athletes are models of determination, strength and talent.
But while their combined 100+ medals shined brightly for all to see, do their diets warrant a place on the podium?
Falling Short at the Plate
At first blush, the cafeteria in the athletes’ Olympic Village sounds like the food court to end all food courts. The dining room boasted several country-specific food stations with numerous hearty and healthy options. The chefs cooked under the simple philosophy that good ingredients make great foods that develop strong, healthy bodies.
Most importantly to me, this included an eye on eco-friendly, fair trade and humanely raised products—even though the chefs threw some fried and sugary options in there, too. The milk was organic, the coffee was free trade, the produce was locally grown, the fish was sustainably caught, the eggs were free range, and the grilled chicken wore the “Freedom Food” cruelty-free animal label. Need I go on?
These choices were deliberate and therefore commendable in my book. They send the wonderful message that the world’s most impressive athletes not only keep their bodies in tip-top shape with rigorous exercise, but also with wholesome foods.
Ready for the bubble to burst? The dining hall also hosted what I see as an intruder in this haven of sensible, slow food cooking: corporate sponsor, McDonald’s. The fast food titan saw nothing wrong with serving up its typical fare of highly processed chicken nuggets, fatty burgers and salty fries.
I wish I could say that this station was deserted, but unfortunately the opposite was true. In an interview with the press, a bronze-winning medalist told reporters her celebratory meal was at McDonald’s—apparently a common choice after an athlete’s final performance of the games.
The spectators followed suit. The McDonald’s in the Olympic Park is said to be the busiest location in the world, and served about 50,000 Big Macs before the end of the games.
When asked about the inclusion of McDonald’s on the Olympic menu, chief Olympic caterer Jan Matthews told the Associated Press, “I think it’s a choice thing. The fact is, people like it” (1).
I get it. The Olympic Games need corporate sponsors and without the financial might of McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Cadbury and others, the event wouldn’t be possible. Nonetheless, I think we can do better. An event that honors fitness and athletics is sending the wrong message by partnering with food vendors that have made millions at the expense of good nutrition.
Plain and simple, going for gold at the Olympic Games shouldn’t involve the golden arches. WF
1. N. Winfield, “Trends: At Olympic Village, Hosts Serve ‘Best Of Britain’ Fare, McDonald’s and Much More,” Associated Press, posted Aug. 8, 2012, www.twincities.com/life/ci_21263587/trends-at-olympic-village-hosts-serve-best-britain, accessed Aug. 11, 2012.