The 2024 Paris Olympics set to be the most plant-forward year yet

Game changer: Paris aims to replace 50% of animal proteins with plant-based proteins at the 2024 Olympics.
Plant-based food
The organizers of the 2024 Paris Olympics aim to cut carbon emissions in half through a number of sustainable initiatives including an effort to serve more plant-based fare.

The 2024 Olympics are going to be more sustainable than they have been in years past. To that end, attendees and athletes can expect to see more plant-forward food at this year’s games. France, which is running this year’s games, aims to cut the carbon emissions of the games in half. And a big part of that strategy is offering more plant-forward food. 13 million meals will be served at the event this summer, which will be the world’s largest catering event. And the game organizers are aiming for at least 50% of meals to be vegetarian and or 50% of all animal proteins to be replaced by plant-based proteins for volunteers, employees, suppliers, the media and athletes. For fans of the game, the game organizers are aiming for at least 60% of the meals offered at food and beverage outlets to be vegetarian. The reason for the difference in percent of plant-based food, according to the games organizers, Food Vision, is the different needs and expectations of spectators and athletes.

This development has been strongly supported by food awareness organization ProVeg International which historically has been a big proponent of fighting climate change through increasing plant-based options.

“We are delighted that the organizers of the Paris 2024 Olympics have recognized the importance of plant-based diets in reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Jasmijn de Boo, Global CEO of ProVeg International, in a statement. “Plant-based diets emit half as much greenhouse gas as animal-based food, so it is essential that events that are under the global spotlight like the Olympics set the example by increasing the availability of climate-friendly food.”

Interestingly, France’s government recently passed a decree banning plant-based products from using “meaty” terms. However, the decree was suspended by France’s higher court, before it was set to come into effect.

The games are promoting plant-based food in such a global setting and ProVeg said it hopes this will serve as an example to other countries.

““Let's hope that Paris 2024 will highlight how plant-based foods need to be actively promoted, not restricted, in whatever way possible so that France and other countries can get on with implementing effective solutions to the climate crisis as quickly as possible,” said de Boo.

Using plant-based food as a means of reducing carbon emissions is not a new strategy, with many foodservice players including plant-based goals in their sustainability programs. Plant-based is a big trend in catering events as well. The UN ensured that two thirds of the catering at COP28, the climate summit held in Dubai last year, was plant-based.

In addition to the environmental benefits of choosing a plant-based diet, there are also nutritional and health benefits associated with the diet. A study published by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that there are numerous benefits to consuming a plant-based diet as an athlete. According to the study, plant-based food help to promote heart health and plant-forward meals may have an anti-inflammatory effect. Plant-based diets are also typically low in fat and high in fiber and provide more antioxidants.

While sustainability was definitely a focus for the last summer Olympics games in Tokyo, increasing plant-based offerings was not a major strategy. Instead, 60% of the venues for the 2020 games were existing facilities, promoting a decarbonized society. As a result, Tokyo decreased overall carbon emissions and also offset emissions equal to or greater than the amount of emissions, making the games carbon neutral, according to the Tokyo 2020 Sustainability post-Games Report.

And this year, France’s sustainable food strategy goes beyond plant-based offerings. In addition, 80% of food served will be made up of seasonal and local ingredients. 80% of unavoidable food waste will be recovered for composting, anaerobic digestion and other waste reduction efforts. The team is also moving away from single-use plastics, which has been an ask from athletes in recent years. 90% of the French and foreign athletes surveyed by the Paris 2024 team said that moving away from single use plastic is necessary or doable.  One of the goals behind the game this year, as stated in the game organizers Food Vision report, is to use it as an opportunity to “build a legacy of more sustainable catering.”

The Paris 2024 game organizers, as well as Sodexo Live!, which is catering the Athlete’s Village as well as various other venues at the games, have been working on their sustainability plan for quite some time. Flavor and creativity have also been a focus for the team, who pulled in chefs and artisan food producers. In addition, the sustainability mission doesn’t stop with the food served, but rather, includes the messaging behind the food. The game organizers said they will include environmental information about recipes at food and beverage outlets as well as collective catering areas. And, they will put initiatives in place to nudge diners toward more sustainable choices.

The commitments and methods of Paris 2024 are a tangible application of our vision for more sustainable games. By setting a carbon budget for each meal that must not be exceeded, making upstream commitments with our partners and suppliers to give a second life to all equipment, and setting quantified targets, our ambition is to drive progress for the games and create a legacy in collective and events catering,” said Georgina Grenon, director of the environmental excellence team at Paris 2024.



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