- 9 Aug 08, 06:35 AM
I've always wondered what an Athletes' Village is like at an Olympic Games.
In my imagination it is like a city where only supreme beings are allowed to exist and intimidatingly powerful people sit around flexing their biceps and discussing everything from personal bests to hitting their peak at the optimum moment.
Well yesterday afternoon I finally got the chance to find out about this most sacred of living quarters as I was given an escorted tour around the village here at the Games.
The stats alone are mind-blowing - 128 tower blocks to house athletes and team members, over 4,000 staff on hand to keep the place looking trim, and 33,000 meals a day being served by the 2,400 kitchen staff...apparently Peking Duck is a menu favourite.
Not that I got to experience the kind of culinary masterpieces such an array of chefs can produce...our tour was very much a controlled glimpse at village life.
Once Eric the producer and I had found the bus to get us to the village, we were welcomed by two booming American voices explaining the schedule, asking us to "respect the athletes' privacy" and most of all, keeping in a group behind the barriers that had been erected in our honour.
To be fair to our tour leaders, 30 members of the media all looking for their own story, operating at their own speed, answering phones and ignoring rules isn't easy.
So, thoughts on the village? I never made it to university thanks to a job offer from the 'Vanessa Show' where my primary aim was to fill a live studio with 100 audience members a day.
My wife studied at Leeds University though and I spent many a day on campus with her, so our tour was a throwback to those heady days of the new millennium.
Just like uni there are young people hanging out on every corner of 'campus', huge dining halls where some lonely souls tucked into the their specific Olympic meals alone while others, namely the Norwegians, sat in a huge group eating in unison and enjoying each other's company.
We visited the impressive gym where an Iranian judoka lifted an unbelievable number of weights.
Not sure who he was but I wouldn't want to meet him on the Tatami in a +100kg bout...I'd last of all of three seconds. I just hope we didn't ruin his work-out with our cameras, photos and questions.
We glimpsed the apartments, which to be honest looked like they were finished in a bit of a rush, but are pretty comfy none the less.
I was surprised to find that the one we visited (we were told they're all alike) had no TV or sitting room, just a central dining room-type area, bathroom and three bedrooms...does this mean athletes tend to go to communal areas to chill out? I imagine they'd be better off having a more private area to relax.
I know where I'd be spending my time if I'd made the qualifying criteria in the 100m (an event I've always fancied).
I'd be at the outdoor 50m pool that was full of athletes practising their starts, and rather randomly one guy zipping up and down wearing a snorkel and mast and flippers!!
So now I know. Yes, the village does make me wish I'd spent six days a week for 20 years adding muscle bulk, dedicating myself to my chosen sport, and being rewarded with a Team GB outfit.
However, I also got the impression that the village is an essential part of an athlete's preparation for the Games.
Everything is catered for, you're surrounded by like-minded individuals, and it's a place where the pressures of the nations' expectations seem to melt away in a world where DVDs, relaxation and last-minute fine-tuning of the mind take priority.
Right, I'm off to bulk up in case my Iranian friend comes looking for me!
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