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Tokyo Olympics wasted 4,000 boxes of food on opening day. Here’s where it went

Tokyo Olympics wasted 4,000 boxes of food on opening day. Here’s where it went

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  • Tokyo Olympics organizers apologized for the food waste on Wednesday, adding that there is a 20 to 30 percent surplus of food across all venues
chefs preparing bento meals

The Tokyo Olympics have so far been about the triumphs of athletes representing their nations—our very own Hidilyn Diaz among them. Never mind that only a year ago, these very games were postponed due to the pandemic and faced scandals, like having to fire its opening ceremony director for a Holocaust joke he made. 

Barely a week since its opening, Olympic organizers confirmed another issue that went viral on social media: 4,000 out of 10,000 pre-ordered bento boxes for volunteers were going to waste.

Tokyo 2020 spokesperson Masa Takaya said in a press conference, “On the day of the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, the large number of staff on duty meant that all of the volumes were large, and a lot of the food was not consumed.”

The opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games took place at the National Stadium in Tokyo on July 23. Photo courtesy of The Official Olympics Facebook page

What happened to the uneaten food?

By their estimate, there was a 20 to 30 percent surplus of food across all venues, particularly on the July 23 opening day. It didn’t help that some 80,000 volunteers were busy that day and some didn’t have time to eat their meals. 

Boxed meals for South Korean Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games athletes served at a hotel in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, Japan on July 26. Photo by Kim Kyung Hoon/Reuters

But Takaya assured everyone that the food didn’t end up in landfills. In fact, it was recycled into animal feed and used for biomass power generation.

“From this week, measures to optimize (food) orders are being implemented at each of the venues, [and] we regret that large amount of over-ordering has occurred up until now,” he said.

Prior to the opening ceremonies, the Tokyo Olympics organizers set out to implement a sustainability plan that included using beds made from recyclable cardboard, a hydrogen-powered cauldron, and medals made from recycled mobile phones. 

As early as 2016, the organizers confirmed its readiness to deliver a minimal impact and sustainable Olympics. 

“Tokyo 2020 has also made sustainability one of its overriding priorities and will include sustainability in all aspects of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Takeo Tanaka, senior director of the Tokyo 2020 sustainability department said back then.

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