Food provision and nutrition support at major athletic competition - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Food provision and nutrition support at major athletic competition

The overarching aim of this project has been to gather evidence about the most appropriate food provision and nutrition support for athletes while competing at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games.

Research team

Funding partners

  • Aramark/Spotless Services Joint Venture (Sydney 2000 Olympic Games)
  • Delaware North Companies Australia Pty Ltd (Melbourne and Dehli Commonwealth Games)


PINES (Professionals in Nutrition and Exercise Science)


Over the past thirty years there has been an increasing emphasis on the suitability of the food provided for athletes at the Commonwealth and Olympic Games. This has mimicked the increase in understanding of the role of nutrition in sports performance. Initial research conducted at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games (Pelly, O'Connor, Denyer, & Caterson, 2009) suggested that expert input into the food provision and nutrition service was a necessary component of the catering service. Since this time, there has been substantial growth in the number and diversity of athletes competing at these events and a need to consider different cultures, sports, ages, and therapeutic dietary needs. Food provision in this environment still presents with challenges that are unique to the location in which the event takes place and continue to be affected by the changes in organisers and catering companies. Understanding the specific needs of athletes in this environment can assist organisers, caterers and officials to provide appropriate food and nutrition support.

About the project

Dr Pelly had previously implemented and evaluated a nutrition service at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games in collaboration with catering companies Aramark/ Spotless Services joint venture and Delaware North companies Australia respectively. This arm of the project commenced in 2010 when Dr Pelly was approached by Delaware to contribute to the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games. Sarah Burkhart was appointed as a research assistant for the project while enrolling in her PhD. Dr Pelly took a team of five Australian dietitians with her to Delhi to implement the nutrition service and conduct the research. Ms Burkhart aimed to investigate the efficacy of nutrition support and its relationship to the dietary intake and eating behaviours of athletes. She collected a range of data through use of a previously developed survey instrument and validated nutrition knowledge questionnaire and direct dietary data collected from athletes visiting a nutrition kiosk located in the dining hall of the athletes village.

Future work

The research conducted on this project as a whole has resulted in the forming of a committee (chaired by Dr Pelly) for the international organisation PINES. This working party has reviewed the food provision on behalf of the IOC for the Vancouver (2010) and Sochi (2014) Winter Olympics and the Beijing (2008) and London (2012) Olympic Games. The input of a sports dietitian into the food provision for these events is now mandated by the organising committee and part of the tender application by caterers. Dr Pelly has recently written a chapter on this topic for the IOC Encyclopaedia of Sports Medicine (Sports Nutrition). A follow up study reviewing the implementation of the review process from the perspective of nutrition experts was conducted at the London 2012 Olympic Games and has resulted in a manuscript that has been submitted for peer review. We aim to follow up with future research into a number of off shoot projects. We would like to investigate better ways of communicating information about the menu in advance and look more closely at actual intake and food wastage.

Related publications

Pelly F. Food and Nutrition Considerations at Major Competitions. In IOC Encyclopedia of Sports Nutrition. International Olympic Committee. John Wiley & Sons Ltd (2014)

Evaluation of food provision and nutrition support at the London 2012 Olympic Games: The opinion of sports nutrition experts. Pelly F, Meyer N, Pearce J, Burkhart S. (under review)

Burkhart S, Pelly F. (2013). Athletes’ opinions of food provision at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games: the influence of culture and sport. Int. J. Sport Nut. Exerc. Metab. 23: 11-23.

Burkhart S,  Pelly F. Athletes use and opinion of point of choice nutrition labels at a major international competition. Appetite (Appetite / Vol. 70, pp.6-13 2013)

Pelly F, Burkhart S. The dietary regimes of athletes: the influence of culture, religion and sport? Int. J. Sport Nut. Exerc. Metab (in press)

Burkhart S, Pelly F. Beyond sports nutrition: The diverse role of dietitians at a major competition event. J Nutr Diet.(in press)

Pelly F. and Mirchin J. Feeding athletic groups.In Burke. L., and Deakin, V. (Eds.) Clinical Sports Nutrition, 5th edition. McGraw Hill, (to be published in 2014), previous editions 3rd (2006) and 4th (2009)

Pelly F, O’Connor H, Denyer G., and  Caterson, I (2011). Evolution of food provision at the summer Olympic games: an historical perspective. Nutr Rev. Vol. 69(6):321–332 

Pelly F, O’Connor H, Denyer G., and  Caterson, I. (2009)  Catering for the athletes’ village at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games:  The role of sports dietitians. Int. J. Sports Nutr. Ex. Metab. 19, 340-354

Pelly F., King T, and O’Connor H.(2006). Factors influencing food choice of elite athletes at an international competition dining hall. Proc. 2nd Aust. Assoc. for Exer. Sports Sci.: 131.(short paper)

Pelly F, Inge K, King T, and O’Connor H.(2006). Provision of a nutrition support service at the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games. Proc. 2nd Aust. Assoc. for Exer. Sports Sci.: 132.(short paper)

Pelly F. Nutrition at the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games (2000). Food Australia: 52 (9): 404.