Olympic Village serves global cuisine

July 28th, 2008 - 2:18 pm ICT by IANS  

By Lou Chen
Beijing, July 28 (Xinhua) Italian lasagna, Beijing roast duck or kosher food? Athletes from more than 200 countries and regions will find their favourite cuisine in the Beijing Olympic Village. The diversity of food, divided into different zones including Chinese, Asian, international and Mediterranean, underlines the meticulous preparation in the village which will house about 16,000 athletes, coaches and their entourage during the Games. The village officially opened here Sunday.

“We want to make this place a nice, quiet and comfortable place to stay, a place that feels like home,” said village secretary-general Wu Jingmi.

The sprawling complex, which runs 800 metres from north to south and 900 metres across, is only a 20-minute walk northwest of two Games’ venues - the Bird’s Nest stadium and aquatic venue Water Cube.

The village has a main restaurant that can feed 5,000 people and also houses tea and coffee shops, a barbershop, post office, shops, library and a clinic.

In catering alone, some 100 foreign and 2,300 Chinese chefs and waiters offer 24-hour service every day. Menus change every eight days, and the meals are athletes’ special.

“We have very strict rules to make sure the foods are safe and calories for each dish are made clear for the athlete’s own discretion, because there may be stringent weight rules in some events,” Wu said.

Hundreds of home-style foods, along with customised beds, space for prayers and entertainment facilities, are part of the efforts to provide comfortable stay for all athletes, Wu said.

Other services like chances of getting a Chinese name add colour to their Olympic experience. “I believe they will find it interesting to stay here,” Wu said.

Construction of the complex started in the summer of 2005, and the total of 42 apartment buildings have water recycling technologies, environmentally friendly construction materials and solar-powered lighting. The apartments save two thirds of the energy costs of ordinary ones in Beijing.

Alternative-fuelled vehicles carry athletes within the village, to and from the Olympic venues. The complex was built according to IOC (International Olympic Committee) rules, Wu said, but elements of Chinese culture have been weaved into the design and decoration, making it not just any another Olympic village.

It used the colours of Beijing’s grey brick walls, white stone balconies, paper-cuts and red lanterns. Cultural activities like embroidery, woodcarving, painting and Beijing Opera mask will be held in the courtyard of the international zone.

“The village is a place where the athletes can unwind and get to know Chinese culture. We want to give them a full experience of Chinese culture,” said Deng Yaping, a famed Olympic table tennis champion and deputy village head.

In line with IOC regulations, a religious centre had been set up in the village, she said.

Deng said Friday that 46 countries and regions have had some representation in the village since its preliminary opening on July 20. The village is expected to be fully lodged.

Secretary-general Wu said thousands of staff and volunteers are ready to receive the athletes, and anticipated no easy task. “We have made several hundreds of plans for every type of contingencies, but security, services and management are still big challenges,” he said.

The single task of taking all the athletes to the opening ceremony on Aug 8 is daunting. “We have to arrange 360 buses to take them to the Bird’s Nest. The whole process will take at least one and a half hours, and that’s only possible if the cooperation between the village and the delegations goes well,” he said.

Before the July 20 test run, the Beijing Organising Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) President Liu Qi said a well-run Olympic Village was a significant part of a successful Games. He ordered the village staff to keep working on the details and provide maximum possible service to all the athletes.

The village will close Aug 27. Also the Paralympic Village, it will reopen on Aug 30 and close on Sep 20.

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