food / travel

Fearing Doping Tests, China Has Banned All 'Foreign' Food For Olympic Athletes

Chinese athletes won't be able to explore any of London's many global cuisines, or even eat the special food prepared at the Olympic Village. Just internal, government-approved grub. Why? Fears that banned substances might slip into thei

In 2008, the Chinese team played host (MrENil)
In 2008, the Chinese team played host (MrENil)
Yang Wang

Because of my work, I often have lunch meetings with athletes. Most of the time, they are most willing to sit down to talk to me over a meal -- but not recently.

"We are not allowed to eat outside of the training center cafeteria anymore. Otherwise we could be thrown out of the team!" one athlete from China's swimming team told me in an anxious tone.

Earlier this year, China's General Administration of Sports issued a document to all of China's sports teams prohibiting the eating of any pork, beef or lamb, except for the meat provided from known safe sources at the athletes' training bases.

China's has had countless serious issues with food in recent years. In the sports sector where doping is a particular concern, it's no wonder that China's sports authority keeps a very close eye on what the members of its national teams put in their mouths.

Before the 2008 Olympics held in Beijing, the Chinese swimmer Ouyang Kunpeng received a lifetime ban from competition. The unfortunate athlete was believed to have eaten barbecue at a roadside stall and thus had a serious blood level of Clenbuterol, a lean meat agent which is also a performance enhancing drug.

Again in August 2010, the German table tennis star Dimitrij Ovtcharov tested positive for Clenbuterol in a routine examination. He suspected that the meat he had eaten a week earlier in Suzhou during the China Open must have contained this banned substance.

As a result, the anti-doping organizations in France and Germany have exhorted their athletes not to eat any meat products coming from China in order to avoid getting a positive score in a doping test.

According to China's national quarantine department, before it can be cooked for the national teams, all meat is stored away in refrigerators after having been through China's national anti-doping agency's testing. In addition, each test requires three samples, two of them will be conserved as long as eight months until after the closure of the Olympic Games.

Judo masters and their pigs

Except for the astronauts of the Shengzhou 9 space craft, no supply of food is safer than the ones specially provided for the Chinese national teams.

In it for the long haul, the Chinese marathon team eats chickens that they've raised themselves. The judo team in Tianjin keeps an armlock on their meat supply by keeping their own pigs.

The Vice-Director for security of the National Aquatic Centre revealed that all 196 swimmers of the national team were obliged to stop eating any meat for 40 days around February this year simply because of a lack of any source of qualified meat.

The family of Liu Xiang, China's best 110 meter hurdler, told me that Liu hasn't had pork for years.

Last week, China came fifth in the World Grand Prix Finals of women's volleyball. Yu Juemin, the national team's coach attributed the poor performance to the fact that "the team hasn't had any meat for three weeks. The impact of this diet on their nutrition has affected the physical force of the players… "

China's sports teams' attitude towards food also reflects the mindset that only a gold medal is worth having, while the efforts put into meat control can be used to promote nationwide health campaigns, marketing of sports, or other good cause.

At the upcoming Olympics in London as many as 600 international chefs are said to be working to come up with all variety of delicacies to satisfy the best sports men and women of the world.

It will be a great shame for the Chinese teams, who are supposed to stick to their own cooks, not to enjoy the Chinese food that would have been prepared specially to cater to them. Most of all, they should get out of their dormitories and have some fun with other athletes from all over the world.

After all, it is only a game.

The author is a sports columnist

Read the original article in Chinese

Photo - MrENil

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The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.

Balboa Park Spring Fling Food Truck festival

San Diego Food Trucks via Facebook
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.

What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?

But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.

An appetite for gentrification

I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.

In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.

This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.

Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.

Informal street vendors are casualties.

A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.

On paper, this all sounds great.

But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.

This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.

In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

A call for food justice

Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.

Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.

It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.

In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.

Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.

Upending an existing foodscape

In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.

San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"

But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.

Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.

All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.

So what happens when new competitors come to town?

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

Starting at a disadvantage

As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.

My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"

San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.

When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.

Going up against the urban food machine

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.

I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.

When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.

Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.

It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.The Conversation


Pascale Joassart-Marcelli is a Professor of Geography and Director, Urban Studies and Food Studies Programs at San Diego State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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