Ready- Set- Athletes Go Vegan for the 2024 Paris Olympics


Over 60 percent of food served at the illustrious event will be plant-based for the first time. 

“Butter, butter, give me butter, always butter.” This was the abiding axiom of Chef Fernand Point, widely considered the father of modern French cuisine. Whether coq au vin or cassoulet, boeuf bourguignon or bouillabaisse, duck confit or quiche Lorraine: for a country that’s traditionally fanatical about its consumption of meats, cheeses and cream – French fare fundamentally has a contrasting relationship with veganism. In fact, average per capita annual meat consumption in France is at 113 kg  – almost double the global average. It therefore came as a big, green-tinted surprise recently when it was announced that the majority of food to be served at the Paris Games and the Olympic Village will be plant-based. 

Top chefs Akrame BenallalAlexandre Mazzia and Vincent Gillot in charge of feeding the sporting masses and over 10,000 athletes at the 2024 Olympic Games will be emphasising a plant-rich approach to promote health and reduce the event’s carbon footprint. Working with events and catering giant Sodexo Live!, these chefs have made it a key objective to use less animal protein.       

Animal agriculture produces 65 percent of the world’s nitrous oxide emissions which has a global warming impact 296 times greater than carbon dioxide: a larger impact than all transportation emissions combined. With numerous leading sports competitors having adopted a vegan lifestyle and with animal products accounting for as much as a third or more of global carbon emissions it’s a significant move in recognising the performance-enhancing results of a plant-rich diet, and towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly Games. 

From the city that gave us the eponymous, international treaty on climate change, France is committed to cutting its meat consumption, weaning itself off this traditional obsession, and the Olympics could mark a turning point in their food system. The French capital may slowly be embracing plant-based eating according to restaurant-finder HappyCow, with its current listings for vegan and vegetarian locations having grown to 1,000 – compared to 894 in 2022, and even one fully vegan Michelin-starred restaurant named ONA.  

Paris Olympics 2024 President Tony Estanguet has urged both participants and supporters to use public transportation to reach the venues and to explore the healthy plant-based food options available. Additionally, 80 percent of all dishes will be sourced from local produce in France. The immense gastronomic feat will involve more than 600,000 meals alone to be served at the Athletes’ Village every day, and some 13 million in total, catering to sportspersons, staff and volunteers at 329 events over 19 days of competition, according to Paris2024.  

Said Estanguet, “It’s also our responsibility to educate the people who will be engaged in Paris 2024. It’s a collective duty now to change our habits and definitely to reduce our carbon footprint. So, when you buy food in the venue, you should also try the vegan food that is served because, in terms of taste, it’s very good.”

With the final Olympic menu yet to be determined, Nestlé-owned Garden Gourmet – a French leader in the field –  is set to offer its existing range of products to everyone from athletes and spectators to staff – including fully vegan options such as burgers, falafels, nuggets, dhal, fillets, and plant-based tuna. Other recipes that have been showcased feature chickpeas, lentils, peas, smoked beetroot, chard, quinoa, salads, muesli, a medley of vegetables and other plant-rich delights. 

A  competitive physique can be had without meat. The global success of vegan athletes has prompted a shift in attitudes towards plant-based nutrition. The 2018 documentary The Game Changers follows UFC fighter James Wilks as he investigates the benefits of a plant-based diet for professional athletes, demonstrating that it can deliver both strength and endurance. The show was executive produced by Arnold Schwarzenegger, co-produced by Formula One winner Lewis Hamilton and includes presentations by tennis legend Novak Djokovic and Jackie Chan – alongside numerous endurance runners, American footballers, boxers and strongmen who support plant-based eating.

Vegan sports people have asserted themselves on social media; such as world record weightlifter Patrik Bouboumian, weightlifting champion Ryan Stills, professional arm wrestler Rob Bigwood, and Jordan Dranes, whose feeds drip with hard-body muscle shots. Scott Jurek is a vegan ultra distance marathon runner who held the USA record for most kilometres run in 24 hours. Even ‘Iron Mike’ Tyson, former boxing heavyweight champion of the world, has embraced the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. Kaylin Whitney, Meagan Duhamel, Carl Lewis, Kendrick Farris, Edwin Moses, Rachael Adams and Morgan Mitchell are but a few of many examples of Olympic winners who excelled on a vegan diet, garnering several medals in some cases. Plant-based eating is not just a trend: these champions dismantle the myth of the “weak vegan.” Clearly peak physical performance is not the sole domain of meat-dominant consumers. 

South African cyclist Grant Ralph is a strong proponent of the benefits of a plant-based diet in sports; competing in both this year’s Cape Town Cycle Tour and securing an 88th position out of 600 teams in the elite 2024 ABSA Cape Epic a week later alongside Second Summit teammate Dino Zuccollo. Grant had a CTCT time of 2.36 (winner 2.31), and Cape Epic finish of 88th/600 teams. A segment of his interview with ProVeg South Africa can be viewed here, and the full version here

From fencing to football, plant-rich diets supply not only the protein and comprehensive nutrients needed for complete health, but endows sportspeople with a competitive edge. Even incremental changes toward eating more plant-based food already yield results and you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to benefit from this lifestyle.

The ProVeg Veggie Challenge provides 30 days of free guidance and resources to those looking to learn more and reduce their meat consumption.  


Media Contact

ProVeg South Africa – Wikus Engelbrecht – Communications Manager: [email protected]; +27 64 172 0120

About ProVeg South Africa:

ProVeg South Africa is the local branch of ProVeg International. ProVeg is an international food awareness organisation working to transform the global food system by replacing conventional animal-based products with plant-based and cultured alternatives.

ProVeg works with international decision-making bodies, governments, food producers, investors, the media, and the general public to help the world transition to a society and economy that are less dependent on animal agriculture and more sustainable for humans, animals, and the planet.