Postcard from... Brussels


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The Independent Online


Grumbles about the facilities at the Sochi Winter Olympics have been well documented, but the delegation heading to Russia from Belgium had a particular concern: how would they make it through the fortnight without their beloved chocolates?

For a country with one of the biggest chocolate industries in the world and where the average person consumes 15lb of the stuff each year, a ban by Russian authorities on foreign imports of the sweet snack was serious business. “We wanted to bring chocolates to make life somewhat more comfortable during negotiations or talks,” Eddy De Smedt, from the Belgian Olympic Committee, told the national broadcaster VRT. “Initially, we received a ‘no’.” However, the delegation lobbied hard to get the Russians to accept that the chocolates were non-negotiable. Eventually they won them over.

Not all nations were so lucky in convincing the authorities to let their comfort foods in. According to VRT’s English-language Flanders News website, the Dutch were faced with having to spend the Games without their beef croquettes known as bitterballs, as they contained meat and were on Russia’s red list. But they found a solution, too: they have taken over a chef who is hoping to find the ingredients in Sochi and whip up close to 38,000 bitterballs for the Dutch team.