Traditional Greek products and recipes for athletes and visitors at 2004 Olympic Games

Recipes from the Greek provinces, baskets full of products from the Greek countryside and support for local producers are some of the initiatives the Athens 2004 organizing committee is taking to promote Greek cuisine during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. The long list of traditional products which the committee’s food directorate is drawing up includes Pomak rice pie, Tentura liqueur from Patras, preserves from Pelion and mastic from Chios. Already products and recipes from nearly all of Greece have been documented in collaboration with the Greek Folklore Research Center of the Athens Academy. One of the ideas which the organizing committee has in mind is to create a basket of Greek rural products to offer to the 22,000 accredited journalists and the 16,000 athletes and escorts at the Olympic Village. They have made contact with the Food Services Directorate of Greek Agroexport, a state-run company, and also with private companies that manufacture Greek products (such as Attic honey and Chios mastic). Athens 2004 is helping promote one of the most traditional Greek products, olive oil, by participating in a Development Ministry program called Olive Roads, which is supervised by the Hellenic Tourism Organization under the aegis of UNESCO. Traditional recipes The Athens 2004 Food Directorate is also trying to get another initiative off the ground. Their plan concerns the meals to be served at the Olympic Village, which will be based on traditional Greek recipes (one from every province, with detailed information about their origin and ingredients). The rice pie made by Pomaks from Echinos is an example of special local dishes. Some of the initiatives result from pressure exerted by local government authorities from provincial towns, which want to see local products presented and promoted during the Olympic Games. Among those already approached by the committee is the Magnesia prefecture (products made by women’s agri-tourism cooperatives), Achaia prefecture (Tentura liqueur from Patras), Kastoria prefecture (giant beans), Chios prefecture on behalf of mastic producers, and Crete, on behalf of olive oil cooperatives and other producers of controlled appellation products (such as feta cheese). Last week, when Athens 2004 president Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki visited a number of Greek cities, the requests grew more numerous and the food directorate’s list lengthened with the addition of products from Volos (firiki apples, walnuts, preserves, Portaria marmalade, oregano, mint and and sausages), from Grevena (hand-made petura noodles, trachanas, custard pies, noodles and cheese), and Karditsa (sausages, trachanas, preserves and noodles). In Thessaloniki there will be an attempt to provide full coverage of all food groups at the football stadium and the five training facilities, with the help of large food manufacturers from Thessaloniki (such as Plaisir, Tottis, Sideris and Kombastiaris) that have already been advised by Athens 2004, and to offer northern Greek recipes. «The endeavor to highlight Greek cuisine is part of spreading around the positive effects the Olympic Games will have on Greece,» says the organizing committee. The aim of the various programs is «for local producers to profit and also to highlight local food customs, which are part of the historical and cultural heritage.» For the Food Services Directorate, the first step toward boosting local producers to run competitions is to find the company that will supply food to the Olympic cities (Thessaloniki, Patras, Volos and Irakleion). The announcements will be directed to the local market, encouraging locals to take part and have the winner selected from among them. Greek products will be preferred, as long as their price is competitive, and they are genuinely Greek. Among the directorate’s activities in connection with the Olympic cities is the task of informing companies based in the area about the needs expected to arise during the Olympic Games. Since food courts will be set up for spectators and visitors in public areas in each of the Olympic cities, arrangements will be made with Athens 2004 offices to design programs to highlight local cuisine and products. Athens 2004 is responsible for supplying food to all Olympic venues. It is holding competitions to select the most suitable providers, and designing terms and conditions keeping in mind national, religious and dietary requirements, while making the most of the unique opportunity presented by the Olympic Games to put the emphasis on local products. This is an exceptional opportunity for the Greek food industry, which has prospects of making substantial gains. At the same time, it will encourage the development of job opportunities in agriculture, stock farming and fishing. Expertise Everyone working in the food manufacture and supply industries is set to acquire more expertise. One direct consequence of the Olympic Games, according to the committee, will be an increased awareness of tourism and improved regulations for monitoring food hygiene and safety. Apart from the economic profits, the committee believes the greatest gain will be «the acquisition of experience and expertise in mass catering.» The stadiums and training facilities in the Olympic cities will cater for 401 athletes and escorts, 4,661 workers (employees and volunteers), 1,080 journalists and 40,000 spectators. The Olympic installations (excluding hotels) will provide an estimated 800,000 meals (full, light, breakfasts and drinks). Not everyone will be pleased, however, as the Athens 2004 plan will maintain tight control over issuing and revoking permits for vendors in and around the Olympic installations after agreement between local authorities and the organizing committee.

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