The pandemic-delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics is in full swing, and if there is something that avid followers and casual viewers are curious about, it's the lives of athletes behind the scenes, away from the competition.
Among the things that people want to know is what athletes are eating throughout their stay at the Olympic Village.
For athletes, who endure rigorous physical trainings and stick to a disciplined routine, food is essential for them to perform their best as they prepare to take on the world at the Olympics, the pinnacle of their career.
Athletes like Australian water polo player Tilly Kearns, Puerto Rican basketball player Ali Gibson and Irish Rugby player Harry McNulty gave viewers a closer look at their life at the Olympics via social media.
Located at the Harumi water district, the Olympic Village is where most athletes are billeted (other countries preferred to house their teams in hotels). It has its own massive, two-story main dining hall that can accommodate those who live in the village. It can seat 3,000 people and is open 24 hours a day.
Feeding thousands of participants from over 200 countries around the world is a mammoth task for the chefs, who reportedly churn out over 45,000 meals a day. As the athletes are not allowed to venture out of the city to try the local cuisine, the Olympics committee makes sure that Japanese cuisine is represented in the 700 menu options that are offered.
The food being offered at the Olympic Village are broken down into three categories: Western, Japanese, and Asian (Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian). There are also halal, vegetarian and gluten-free offerings, and even dedicated sections for pizza, hamburger and pasta.
According to AFP, meals at the Olympics are focused on healthy but informal dishes like sushi, tempura and ramen are also offered. Sushi with raw fish and sashimi are not allowed to be served in line with the Olympics’ safety rules.
In April, the organizing committee announced that it will be serving five special dishes, whose recipes are from the winners of a contest held by the committee: somen, a classic summer noodle dish; oden, a winter soup but is served cold to the athletes; zunda de panna cota, zangi salmon, and toasted bread with peaches, ham and cream cheese.
On social media, athletes have been sharing their dining hall experience, some even making informal reviews of the food.
Hidilyn Diaz gave a glimpse of what she ate after she won the country’s first Olympic gold medal in her vlog.
Puerto Rican basketball player Ali Gibson shared on TikTok one of her lunchtimes and sort of rated the food with her expressions. She seemed to like the potstickers, pho, matcha brownie, and fruits, while her expression translated “so-so” for the salmon, coconut curry chicken and basmati rice.
American volleyball player Erik Shoji also took his commentary on the food at the dining hall on TIkTok. In the video, he is seen sampling dumplings, cucumber, ebi and tuna sushi, which he describes as “good. He calls the gyozas “the bomb” and the Japanese curry as “this food is so good.”
Irish Rugby player Harry McNulty, like Hidilyn, gave a tour of the dining hall and showed the range of dishes that cater to different diets and cultures. He approved of the food and called them "brilliant" and said the menu changes most days. He tried steamed red bean paste bun and some dimsum, pizza, rotti, tandoori lamb with cuscous and creamy spinach.
American rugby player Ilona Maher loved the food at the dining hall, saying the spring roll and ramen were amazing, and raved about the deep fried camembert. “Yes, I am an Olympian but I still like cheese,” she put in her caption to her post on TikTok.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics has implemented strict rules when it comes to health and safety of the athletes in the games, the Village, and the dining hall.
Tilly Kearns of the Australian water polo team shared on TikTok the COVID-19 protocols at the dining hall. She said athletes are only given 10 minutes to eat and only a maximum of 10 people can eat at one table at a time. They also have to leave as soon as they are finished eating. Wearing a mask is mandatory in the dining hall when not eating.
Kearns also showed that at the entrance of the dining hall, there are alcohol and hand sanitizers for them to use and they are given disposable gloves. Sanitizing wipes are also available per table so they can disinfect the surfaces, including the plexiglass barriers that separate the athletes per table to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Banner images from Tokyo 2020 via Kyodo