A concerted effort by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sports Ministry has ensured national cuisine for Indian Athletes in the Games Village for the first time in the history. This is the most savory victory at Rio Olympics even before the country begins its medal hunt. Indian athletes can now look forward to relishing meals of their choice. The Indian thali includes dal makhani, vegetable pulao, paneer masala and sambhar to tandoori chicken, egg bhurji, tandoori roti, raita and even sweets such as soan papdi and gulab jamun.
As per the rules, the players can eat only that food which is cooked in the games village kitchen. It took a lot of emails from the ministry to convince the committee to make room for an Indian kitchen. It seemed impossible till few days back. The Olympic Games organizing committee politely refused to the repeated requests from India’s sports ministry and the Indian Olympic Association that national cuisine be made part of the official menu at the event. The committee said that the Indian contingent had always been small and the food would go waste. Besides, who would cook Indian food for the players at the Olympics village? it asked.
“We assured them that we will send a big contingent this time, for a longer time, and not just Indian players but every participant from Southeast Asian countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and several other countries will want to eat Indian food and that they must give the cuisine a chance,” said a senior ministry official, who did not wish to be identified. Just two weeks ago, the ministry finally got the confirmation that Indian cuisine had been officially added to the Olympics menu. India is sending 119 participants to represent the country.
The PM has taken a keen interest in India’s preparation for the event. The push for Indian food is part of the Modi government’s Rs 135-crore Olympic Games push that started in January 2015 with the programme Target Olympic Podium (TOP) that included 24-hour control room monitoring, mental trainers, Australian coaches, Dutch scientific trainers and a month-long stay in Rio to get used to the place.