The most common question I’m asked is not about the famous athletes I get to treat here in London at the Summer Olympic Games.
Nor is it about the most gruesome injury I’ve seen.
Oddly enough, most people want to know about the food in the Olympic Village. With 17,000 mouths to feed there, providing a good variety of quality food is an unbelievable undertaking.
The 5,000-seat Olympic Dining Hall was built as a massive, temporary tent near the center of the Athletes Village. More than 194,000 square feet of eating space! To put that in perspective, it is large enough inside to park 880 double-decker buses. Or approximately the same size as the Super Walmart in Plattsburgh.
ALL YOU CAN EAT
In the Dining Hall, athletes are able to eat anything they could ever need or want, 24 hours a day for the entire duration of the Olympics. All you can eat at every meal, and you can come and go as often as you like. Almost any imaginable type of food is served (... although I have not yet been offered a red hot). Something familiar for every athlete from around the world. Not a good environment for someone trying to lose weight.
And I think Mark Twain was accurate when he said, “Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.”
Not only is the variety of food impressive, the quantity of food is mind blowing. Over the course of the Olympics, an estimated 1.2 million meals will be served, which works out to 65,000 per day. And yes, the rumors are true. There is also a full-sized McDonald’s restaurant in the dining hall that is also open around the clock.
However, as good as the food is, the entertainment really starts once you sit down. Although no one mentions it, the real reason everyone hangs out in the dining hall is to gawk at the celebrities and the freaks. And I use “freaks” in the best possible use of the word — from the massive weightlifters to the bird-like gymnasts, the 7-plus-foot basketball and volleyball players to the superstar athletes that I watch on TV.
There is always something interesting to look at. Everyone should get the chance to wait in line for a steak between a 7-foot-1-inch Russian and a 7-foot-6-inch athlete from Spain. It’s a quick way to make a man feel tiny.
LUNCH WITH PHELPS
And if I ever get bored looking at the physical specimens walking around, I can always just gawk at the “celebrity athletes.” I grew up a huge sports fan, have watched the Olympics every year since I was a kid and still consider myself an avid athlete.
It is insane that I get to eat my meals with the most famous and impressive athletes in the world. Only in the Olympic Dining Hall can I share a breakfast table with Usain Bolt, have lunch next to Michael Phelps, chat over a coffee with Venus Williams and have dinner near Roger Federer. Pretty amazing stuff.
Amazing enough to almost make me forget about the food.
Jonathan Mulholland, who graduated from Plattsburgh High School in 1992, lives in Plattsburgh. A consultant for the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid since 2005, he worked with both the gold-medal-winning U.S. Bobsled and U.S. Skeleton teams. He also served as team chiropractor for the U.S. Paralympics Team at the 2010 Paralympics Winter Games in British Columbia.