In restaurant terms, food service for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games is going through what we would call a "soft opening." During a time when very few people need to be served the entire culinary team opens the kitchen. Since very few people are being served, the kitchen crew, with all of its support systems, can work out all the wrinkles before serving the larger, main group of customers expected to arrive. When a restaurant goes through a 'soft opening,' the staff generally serves employees and family while keeping the doors closed to general public. After a week or so of this they are ready to open to the public, with everything running smoothly.
In a manner of speaking, we are going through a 'soft opening' and gradually building the staff, a little each day, until next month, when most of the media will be in China and the athletes are expected to start arriving.
There are two main challenges facing the culinary team at this Olympic Games - the language barrier created by the multi-national/multi-linguistic staff and working with the Beijing Health Bureau in the kitchen during all hours of operation. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done with either situation. I am making every effort to pick as much Chinese as I can, but fluency in a second language takes years.
As for working with the health inspectors... Well, that is a challenge. All we can do is our best to comply with their requests and try to educate them when their requests are unreasonable. Just yestarday we had to throw away alomst 100 pounds of frozen bread, beacause the original freezer case had be opened 4 days ago. Chinese standard for the Olympics is to discard all product on the third day ofter opening, in addition to discarding all leftovers. It is difficult to understand how we can discard clearly usable product with millions of people starving just a few miles away. However, I did not come here to get involved with political matters; I'm here simply to cook for athletes, trainers, broadcasters, journalists, etc.