Feeding the Athletes

Akio Kashiwamura grows vegetables like potatoes and broccoli on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. He hopes his produce will be served up to athletes from all over the world come Olympics time in Tokyo. But for that to happen, he needs special certification.

During the London 2012 Games, caterers provided a total of 330 tons of fruit and vegetables. All of it needed to pass an audit called Good Agricultural Practices, or GAP. It's a detailed set of rules that ensures food safety and quality.

The GAP standard is now an IOC regulation, so Tokyo must comply. But GAP is hardly being followed in Japan because the country has different rules for farming.

For Kashiwamura to be certified, it will take work. In Japan, officials only check produce for pesticide residue. But GAP requires detailed records of the whole farming process, including lists of all pesticides that are used. Where the pesticides are from, how they're stored, how often they were used -- all of it needs to be recorded.

An employee at Kashiwamura's farm says it will make things much easier, as they weren't so particular about how they stored chemicals.

Data is logged and stored so it can be shared by everyone on the farm. Kashiwamura thinks when all is said and done, it will be worth it.

"People around the world will focus on the Tokyo Games. That makes it a big business opportunity for showcasing the quality of our agricultural products," says Kashiwamura.

Lettuce farmer Hitoshi Ikeda in the southern island of Kyushu is already GAP certified.

Ikeda is looking beyond the 2020 Games. With the international certificate, he now wants to expand his market outside of Japan.

"From a global perspective, GAP certification is the norm. I can’t export unless I have it, since buyers won’t trust our produce. The real question is how much we can prepare before the Games, and how much will our business appeal to people in 2020," says Ikeda.

Only about 1% of Japan's farmers currently have GAP certification. The government hopes to increase that to 30% by 2020 -- not just for the Games, but also for what it could mean for exports.

In the Olympic Village, athletes will be able to enjoy a multicultural buffet, but the committee is hoping to serve as much Japanese food as possible.

The menu hasn’t yet been finalized, but some popular Japanese meals include tempura, yakitori, ramen and sushi -- though raw fish may not be served.

There are just 3 years left to build an Olympic Village that can welcome athletes with real "omotenashi," or great hospitality, and there’s still a lot to do.