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Early-arriving athletes in the suburban outskirts of Melbourne were greeted by a remarkable sight—the Olympic Village which would house them and 5,000 to 6,000 other athletes for the duration of the Games. The village, brand-new and never before lived in, was a model of what home-hunting Melburnians (who will buy or rent the houses when the athletes leave) hope for in a well-planned suburban development. On a 115-acre tract there were 841 neat, landscaped homes and, in the immediate vicinity, a motion picture theater, medical and dental centers, banks, recreation halls, barber shops, a post office, laundries, dry cleaners, drugstores and shoe repair shops. To maintain the village, officials had provided a staff of 2,200 maids, waiters, cooks, gardeners, guards, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and clerks, reinforced by 400 Melbourne housewives who have volunteered part-time help. Their aim, the hosts said, was to make this year's contingent to the Games the best fed and cared for in history.
The major factor in their claim, however, was not the village but the food. More care and thought has gone into this important—to temperamental athletes—matter than into any other preparation. The staffs of Brigadier C.M.L. Elliott, director of housing and catering, and Philip Miskin, village commandant, have provided 23 dining halls, each seating 250, for 23 different dietetic groups, 200 chefs (160 of them from foreign lands) and 90 ovens. They'll serve about 25,000 meals daily, but the important point about the menus is not their quantity but the fact that there will be an imposing variety of 5,000 different dishes.
It has taken two years to organize all this. For months into Brigadier Elliott's office every day trooped a procession of earnest but incompetent immigrant cooks who had responded to his plea for help. They brought outlandish and noisome concoctions of food that the brigadier politely sifted through in search of the few good dishes he eventually accepted. Many hundreds of additional dishes came from the professional chefs after extensive tests. As a final, fastidious check on national tastes, he invited the visiting teams to bring with them cooks and spicers to supervise special dishes. Only a few, after their experts had tasted Australian samples, thought it necessary to bring their own men, but the Russians jumped at the chance. They arranged to bring one first-class chef, possibly two, specially trained in the food requirements of athletes.
Many of the dishes on the earliest trial lists had to be discarded because, though they were pronounced authentic as national foods, they weren't suitable for athletes. Either they were too rich or too filling or too low in energy production.
Nonetheless, there will be a melange calculated to satisfy almost any national taste. There will be special cheeses and flavorings and spices, special rices and breads, curds and meat cakes, butters, cooking oils and yoghurts, relishes and pickles. There will be kosher meat for the Jews, specially butchered meats for the Mohammedans, vegetarian mixtures for the Brahmans, and suckling pig and sour cream for the Russians.
Any visitor will be able to call confidently for seaweed soup, egg leaves, marinated fish, goulash, shashlik, olla, French casseroles, Italian paste, German sauerkraut, Polish sausages, Norwegian beer bread, Swedish smorgasbord, Belgian hotchpotch, Dutch groats, Japanese steak, Greek shortbreads and, finally, on the British-American menu, Australia's own kangaroo-tail soup.
Working on the basis that each athlete will need 5,000 calories a day, Brigadier Elliott estimates that before the Games have ended, competitors and officials will have eaten, among other things, 10 tons of butter, 5� tons of cheese, 45,000 dozen eggs, 76 tons of fresh vegetables, 50 tons of salad ingredients, 16,000 rolls, 60 tons of fruit, 45,000 quarts of ice cream, 20 tons of fish, 100 tons of meat (including turkeys for the Americans' Thanksgiving Day dinner November 22, which happens also to be the opening day of the Games) and 28 tons of rice.
And just in case any of the athletes should want to train, which seems a distinct possibility, the planners have plenty of facilities available for them too. At the village three 440-yard tracks have been laid out. Three more are available in downtown Melbourne, one at Olympic Park, the second at Melbourne University and the third at Royal Park. Within 10 miles of the village there are seven gymnasiums, four basketball courts, three halls for fencers, four for weight lifters, 16 boxing and wrestling rings, three hockey and four soccer fields. Swimmers, cyclists, rowers, yachters, shooters, pentathloners and others will train at the Olympic sites. The planners have come a long way since Melbourne began preparations. When it is all over, Brigadier Elliott and his staff think they will have just one idea left: Rest.