Rio Olympic athletes dining hall to include 5 different buffets

Olympic dining hall cafeteria
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The dining room for the athletes village at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics will be bigger than two football fields, and the kitchen being built in the same massive tent will be as large as one.

The setting hints at quite a spread when the games open in just under three months.

“We want to make sure when there is a medal or a record, part of that record also goes to our food team,” said Marcello Cordeiro, Rio’s director of food and beverages, in an interview with The Associated Press.

At its peak, the athletes village kitchen will prepare 60,000 meals daily, produced from daily shipments of 210,000 kilograms (460,000 pounds) of raw ingredients — all served up on 4 million biodegradable plates for 18,000 athletes, coaches and staff.

Diners will choose from five different buffets — Brazilian, Asian, International, Pasta and Pizza, Halal and Kosher.

Food for Muslim and Jewish athletes will adhere to their specific religious dietary laws. Koreans will even get spicy kimchee — the nation’s famous fermented cabbage, scallions and assorted vegetables — shipped directly from home.

And everyone can try 40 varieties of Brazil’s exotic fruits like caju, acai, carambola, caqui, goiaba and maracuja, often squeezed into Brazil’s famously delicious juices (sucos in Portuguese).

The subsequent Paralympics will offer the same variety, though the numbers will be smaller.

“We are confident our Brazilian food is going to be a success, we’ll make a bit more to be safe,” Cordeiro said. “We are doing our best to bring the world to Brazil.”

He listed key ingredients of the basic Brazilian diet: rice, black beans, farofa (flour from toasted cassava often sprinkled on top of food) and meat. But the regional specialties are as large as the continent-size country itself.

Buffet-style eateries are popular in Brazil, where they charge by the weight — so-called “Kilo Restaurants.” There will be no charge for the athletes.

“They can eat all they want,’ Cordeiro said. “No scales. We know athletes know exactly what they need to eat.”

To prepare the final menus, Cordeiro and colleagues are holding about 20 food testings before the Olympics open Aug. 5. They’ve been through seven or eight already, including one a few days ago.

“Imagine you start eating at 10 a.m. and you finish 8 p.m.,” Cordeiro said. “Everyone thinks that food-tasting is super-duper, but this is how you eat.”

He demonstrated, lifting a tiny sandwich slice up to his nose, one made of ham, mozzarella, cream cheese and lettuce. He checked for texture and presentation, and finally took a small bite. Next he graded the offering on a checklist.

“I’ll tell you the truth, I can’t stand the testing,” he said. “This means eating the whole day. Actually, not eating. Tasting. You bite and you leave it.”

Rio will also offer different breakfast styles. For the Japanese palette there might be rice and miso soup, or fish and natto, the gooey, pungent paste made from fermented soybeans.

“We’re also very careful with the spice,” Cordeiro said.

The athletes village consists of 31 apartment towers containing 10,160 bedrooms. It is just one part of the Olympic food operation. Deborah Cordiner is handling most of the rest, including athletes’ food at venues, and support centers for volunteers and accredited guests.

“We always face the same challenges, the transport, the volume of food,” said Cordiner, a Scot who has worked at all but two Olympics — Salt Lake City and Sochi — since the 2000 Games in Sydney.

She said athletes at venues will munch on “tens of thousands” of sandwiches.

A spokesman for the organizing committee declined to give the names of catering companies under contract, saying they “are not sponsors, so they don’t have a right to be associated with the Games.”

The International Olympic Committee and organizers receive billions from sponsors like McDonald’s.

Cordeiro said he is worried less about the menu — he has about 20 chefs, several from outside Brazil — than he is about food safety. He must guarantee the food is free from steroids or other ingredients that might cause an athlete to test positive on a doping test.

A major offender is the steroid Clenbuterol, which is fed to livestock in some countries to produce leaner meat.

“To assure that our ingredients are free of steroids and other kinds of chemicals, we are making sure our suppliers have all the certificates that are demanded by our national food and drug agency,” Cordeiro said. “People don’t know how complex it is to put out safe food. We know that this is a very sensitive subject that could influence a result or an athlete’s medal.”

He said almost all the food was coming from Brazil, save for items like kimchee and some spices.

Athletes will be forbidden from taking their own food into the dining area, though many will eat away from the village — often in training areas set up by their national teams.

“If an athlete brings something in from outside and eats it the dining hall and gets sick, then it can be blamed on the village food,” he said. “But in the end we know that athletes can go anywhere and buy a hot dog and possibly get it inside.”

MORE: Like golf, tennis’ return to Olympics in 1988 faced skeptics

Katie Ledecky talks swimming legacy and life in Gainesville

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OlympicTalk recently caught up with Katie Ledecky to discuss life since moving from Stanford to Florida 15 months ago, her meticulous mindset, and the legacy she continues to build.

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can also catch an encore presentation of Ledecky’s performance at the 2022 U.S. Open this Saturday at 4:30 pm ET on NBC.

What does a typical day look like for you Gainesville? Walk me through a full day starting from the minute your alarm clock goes off.

Ledecky: A typical day would be waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning and swimming from 6 to 8. Then I have weights from 8 to 9:15. I get breakfast, have lunch and then take a nap. Then I have practice again at 2 or 3 in the afternoon for another two hours.

Wow, that sounds incredibly busy! Have you had a chance to find any new favorite places to eat in Gainesville?

Ledecky: I’m still kind of finding my spots. There is a breakfast spot pretty close to campus that a lot of the swimmers like, so I go there quite a bit, but I’m still looking. I haven’t gone to very many places more than once.

What are you doing in your free time? Are you coaching?

Ledecky: Yes, I’m volunteering with the [University of Florida] team, but I think of myself more as a teammate. I have a lot of other things going on with sponsorships, but aside from that, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I have a piano and enjoy playing that!

How often do you get to see your family?

Ledecky: My parents, David and Mary, still live in the D.C. area, and then my brother, Michael, lives in New York, so I’m a lot closer to home [than at Stanford]. I see them around the holidays, and they come to a lot of my swim meets.

I know how much you love to stay academically engaged. Are you taking any classes at the University of Florida?

Ledecky: I’m not taking any classes right now. I’m taking a break, but I’m still trying to learn as much as I can just in other areas, reading a lot and watching the news, following different things that I’m interested in. I think at some point, I’ll probably go to grad school, but I’m still figuring out what area that would be in right now.

There’s a quote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I feel like that only scratches the surface of describing your work ethic and mindset. You demand excellence in every area of your life, not just from yourself, but from others around you. Can you talk about where that mindset comes from?

Ledecky: I’ve always had that kind of a mindset. I’m very driven, and I’m always setting new goals for myself no matter what I’ve achieved in the past. I’m always looking forward, I don’t take very many breaks, and so it’s always on to the next goal and making sure I’m doing the little things right and doing the things I need to do to reach my goals.

To be able to perform at the level that you do every single day takes a lot of mental toughness. What do Katie Ledecky’s inner thoughts look like? What do you tell yourself? Any affirmations? 

Ledecky: I try to stay positive no matter how well or how poorly a practice or a race is going. When I’m swimming, I give myself positive mental pep talks along the way throughout a race. I’ll say “keep it up,” “hold pace” or “hit this turn.”

I just want to read you a few tweets… 

You idolized Michael Phelps when you were younger, and now you’re that person for a lot of people. You’re the GOAT. You’re Katie Ledecky. Someone’s idol. What does that feel like?

Ledecky: It’s an honor to have young swimmers look up to me, and I don’t take that lightly. I try to be a good role model and reach out to young kids and sign autographs and take photos if people approach me at swim meets. I hope that there are some young swimmers out there that will grow up to be champions or maybe they’ll just continue to love the sport or find other things that they’re passionate about, but it’s an honor.

Have you had any memorable interactions with young swimmers?

Ledecky:  Yeah, actually the World Cup in Indianapolis [in November]. We were given those giant checks at the end of the meet that you really can’t travel with, so I was able to sign it and give it to one of the basket carriers at the meet. They were thrilled, and it was fun to be able to put a smile on their face.

Give me just one word to describe each of these milestones in your life, starting with the 2012 Olympics.

Ledecky: The first. It was my first international competition and my first gold medal, so that’s the one that’ll probably be the most special for me forever.

OLY-2012-SWIM

2016 Rio Olympics.

Ledecky: Consistency. I was swimming in multiple events at the Olympics for the first time and I just got into a really good rhythm and felt so comfortable in the pool deck. So confident. That was just a very unique feeling.

Tokyo Games.

Ledecky: Tokyo was different with all the COVID protocols. Nobody in the stands. No family there. But it was a lot of fun still, so a lot of great memories with my teammates there.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind at the end of your career? What do you want to be remembered for?

Ledecky: I’d like to be remembered as somebody that worked really hard and gave my best effort every time I got up on the blocks and represented Team USA. Hopefully, I can continue to inspire young kids to work hard in whatever it is that they are passionate about, whether that’s something academic, athletic, or something else. If you find something that you really love, you should go all in on it and try to be the best you can be at it.

You’ve achieved so much in life already personally and professionally, I just want to ask: Are you genuinely happy? Are you satisfied in this season of life right now?

Ledecky: Oh yeah, I’m very happy. I love the sport more and more every year. I get a little sad thinking about the day I will eventually retire–which isn’t anytime soon. I love the sport. I’m trying to just enjoy every day of training and racing and trying to be the best that I can be.

I say this all the time, I never imagined I would even make it to one Olympics and so to be training now to try to qualify for a fourth Olympics is it’s all just icing on the cake at this point and something that I truly enjoy. I enjoy doing it with my teammates, striving for similar goals, and getting to do it with really great people.

Knowing all that you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self — the little Palisades Porpoise?

Ledecky: I don’t have very many regrets or anything in my career, so I think I would just continue to tell myself to have fun and enjoy every moment. Maybe, write down a little bit more early on. I’ve done a better job of journaling and writing down different things so that I can remember them down the road, but I didn’t do as good of a job in 2012 and 2013.

Rapid-fire questions. Race day hype song? 

Ledecky: “Badlands” by Bruce Springsteen.

Finish this sentence: I’m not ready for a meet without … 

Ledecky: My suit, cap and goggles.

Did you have AIM back in the day? What was your embarrassing screen name?

Ledecky: I didn’t. I didn’t even have a cell phone until before the London Olympics. I think I actually borrowed my brother’s phone for that, and then we went out and bought an iPad so that I could FaceTime my family from London. I didn’t have an email account either until high school.

Your life is on the line. You need to sing one karaoke song to save it. What are you picking?

Ledecky: Well, USA Swimming did carpool karaoke in 2016 before the Olympics. My car did “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, which is a great karaoke song because it’s like 10 minutes long so maybe I would choose that just as a fun memory. We also did “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen in 2012. Those are two fun songs with some fond memories.

Post-workout meal?

Ledecky: After morning practice, eggs and toast or veggies and eggs. I love breakfast. I could eat breakfast food for all three meals and I’d be satisfied.

Cheat meal? 

Ledecky: Either pizza or a burger.

If you had to choose another Olympic sport to compete in what would it be and why? 

Ledecky: Probably hockey. I’m not good on skates, but it’s my favorite sport to watch.

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Marie-Philip Poulin is first female hockey player to win Canada Athlete of the Year

Marie-Philip Poulin
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Marie-Philip Poulin became the first female hockey player to win Canada’s Athlete of the Year after captaining the national team at the Winter Olympics and winning her third gold medal.

Poulin, 31, scored twice and assisted once in Canada’s 3-2 win over the U.S. in the Olympic final on Feb. 17. She has scored seven of Canada’s 10 goals over the last four Olympic finals dating to the 2010 Vancouver Games — all against the U.S.

Nine different male hockey players won Canada Athlete of the Year — now called the Northern Star Award — since its inception in 1936, led by Wayne Gretzky‘s four titles. Sidney Crosby won it in 2007 and 2009, and Carey Price was the most recent in 2015.

Poulin is the fifth consecutive Olympic champion to win the award in an Olympic year after bobsledder Kaillie Humphries in 2014, swimmer Penny Oleksiak in 2016, moguls skier Mikaël Kingsbury in 2018 and decathlete Damian Warner in 2021.

Canada’s other gold medalists at February’s Olympics were snowboarder Max Parrot in slopestyle, plus teams in speed skating’s women’s team pursuit and short track’s men’s 5000m relay.

In men’s hockey, Cale Makar won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in leading the Colorado Avalanche to the Stanley Cup and the Norris Trophy as the season’s best defenseman.

The Northern Star Award is annually decided by Canadian sports journalists.

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