Mission impossible accomplished

Mission impossible accomplished

The head of the Youth Olympic Village shares the difficulties she faced before and during the Games


Sheryl Lim (in blue)  with volunteers and athletes in the village
Sheryl Lim (in blue) with volunteers and athletes in the village
Photo: Kevin Kung
Athletes at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore loved their pasta, and the woman who was responsible for bringing it to them - Sheryl Lim - had her work cut out for her.

Lim, director of the Youth Olympic Village, had to look after hundreds of athletes and that includes feeding them.

A major sporting event is a big test for athletes who are striving to give their best all the time. Lim knew the importance of good-quality food, so she monitored the catering area every day.

'Catering was a huge challenge for us. We had to set up a big kitchen to cook more than 22,000 meals a day to feed the athletes and officials,' Lim said.

'I chatted with the athletes to see what they thought about the food. We valued their comments very much and passed them on to the kitchen staff. Almost all of them were happy with our food and praised the great variety that was on offer.'

Lim said pasta was the most popular food. 'Athletes loved our pasta and some even said it was the best they ever had.'

Usually there's a McDonald's in an Olympic village, but the fast-food chain did not want to have a restaurant at the 'heart' of the YOG.

'Although McDonald's is the official sponsor of the Games, ... there's already a McDonald's nearby,' said Lim.

She added that hiring staff was a challenge, too. 'There are more than 4,000 rooms in the village, and to ensure all the athletes and team officials had a pleasant stay, we had to provide room service every day. It was difficult to find staff.'

Lim took up her post in August 2008 when the site of the village was changed from the National University of Singapore to Nanyang Technological University. And she had very little time to come up with a plan for the village and how to run it.

She went to the European Youth Olympic Summer Festival held in Finland last year to gain more experience, but the YOG was a much bigger event.

The YOG village was divided into Village Square and Residential Zone, and there were many facilities, like Wi-fi hotspots, shops and even a bank.

There were shuttle buses connecting the complex with competition venues, and it was also an important hub for the media.

More than 900 local students visited the village to learn more about the Games. 'The main idea of hosting the YOG is to educate athletes. In the [Summer and Winter] Olympic Games, we are more focused on the excellence of athletes, the results and medals,' Lim said.

'In the YOG, culture and education programmes are equally important as sports. That's why all athletes stay in the village for the duration of the Games even after finishing their own event.

'We hold workshops and encourage athletes to chat with senior champions. Our volunteers also organised exhibitions and set up a cultural booth in the village.'

During the Games, athletes, volunteers and students chatted with each other. This interaction provided a rewarding lesson for local youth outside the classroom.

Lim said their positive comments gave her inspiration to handle the heavy workload during the Games.

'I started to live in the village on August 8. Luckily I had good support staff so the workload was still acceptable. At the beginning of the YOG, I only slept three to four hours a day, but I'm glad my team's efforts paid off and everything went smoothly,' she said.

Kevin is a Young Post intern



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