Take-out in Beijing?

The following was taken from the told the New York Times. It features Olympic Gold Medalist and triathlete Simon Whitfield, and expresses athletes’ concern with the contents and quality of food they might eat in the 2008 Olympics in Bejing.

Athletes have major food concerns

TheStar.com – Sports – Athletes have major food concerns

Hiring personal chefs to avoid possible hazards

February 12, 2008

Simon Whitfield and his triathlon teammates plan to bring their own chef named Cosmo — whose specialties include yam omelettes and fennel french fries — to the Beijing Olympics this summer.

Hurdler Perdita Felicien is pretty sure she’ll hire her own cook, too.

And the Americans will be able to dine on three nutrition-packed meals a day at the U.S. Olympic Committee’s training centre at Beijing Normal University.

The reason for the extra care is multifold: Fear of food-borne illnesses in China, a desire to ensure proper nutrition and the fact some athletes and teams are staying outside the athletes’ village.

There’s also the worry that tainted food could lead to a positive drug test. A caterer working for the USOC told the New York Times of finding a half chicken breast measuring 14 inches while shopping in a Chinese supermarket that could have fed a family of eight.

“We had it tested and it was so full of steroids that we never could have given it to athletes,” Frank Puleo told the Times. “They all would have tested positive.”

Adds Whitfield: “That’s an eye-opener right there and I’m sure it will factor into how we try and approach it.”

Whitfield said that Triathlon Canada has been supportive of their proposal to bring chef Cosmo Meens from their favourite haunt in Victoria, Mo:Lé Restaurant. The triathletes won’t be staying in the athletes’ village in Beijing because it’s too far from their competition venue.

“We just said, ‘Why in the world are we going to do all this preparation and these details and then we go to Beijing and just hope the food’s okay,’.” said Whitfield, who remains a threat to win the men’s triathlon event.

“Instead of having six athletes and five support staff crammed in the kitchen trying to cook up whatever they happen to find in the grocery store, for a relatively low cost, we’ll just bring our own guy.”

Felicien is leaning towards staying outside the athletes’ village, chiefly because of the food issue.

“The last thing you want to do is catch a case of whatever,” she said. “You just don’t want to be over there and having issues. I’m going to take all the precautions in the world.”

The Americans feel the same way. One of their sponsors is shipping 25,000 pounds of lean protein to Beijing about two months before the Games. About 700 meals a day will be served at the USOC training centre in Beijing.

But Dr. Bob McCormick, the Canadian Olympic Committee’s chief medical officer, said they have no concerns about the food in the Olympic village. He said that numerous discussions with the Beijing Games organizers have ensured them there’s a rigorous system in place to monitor food preparation.

Where the Americans are bringing over a lot of their own meat, McCormick said the Canadians have identified high quality suppliers in China that are used to dealing with Canadian consumers.

McCormick said that the COC has also hired three chefs to cook for teams staying far from the village such as the rowers and canoe/kayakers and also at a high performance centre about one kilometre from the athletes village.

“We want to make sure we have everything in place, but we don’t want to make it more of an issue than it has to be, not only not to embarrass our hosts but our message to our athletes has been we’ll have things in place, we’ll ensure that there’s safe food and you don’t have to worry about getting sick, you don’t have to worry about steroids, don’t worry about it,” said McCormick.

The American experience with the steroid-filled chicken has Whitfield thinking their best bet might be to trust in Cosmo.

“It probably supports even more the idea of bringing a chef because that person can have more educated guess on what to buy and not to buy as compared to myself and (teammate) Lauren (Groves) who might just pick and hope – or in this instance chew and hope.”

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