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Wed Apr 23 19:34:05 SAST 2014

Nothing quite like life in an Olympic village

DAVID ISAACSON | 27 July, 2012 07:260 Comments
The sight that greets arriving Athletes and Officials from all over the World at their Olympic Athletes Village, where members of the National Youth Theatre of Britain welcome them with song and dance routines, on July 20, 2012 in London, England
Image by: John Stillwell / Getty Images

ONLY the cream of athletes from around the world get to taste life in an Olympic village.

Twitter has been awash with tidbits and pictures posted by sports stars, like Roland Schoeman, competing at his fourth Olympics, hailing the London base as the best village he has seen.

The high-rise apartment buildings — nine stories in the case of the block on Cheering Lane which Team SA shares with other nations including Spain — offer great views into the Olympic precinct.

Photographs of sunsets have been popular on Twitter.

But the reality is that life in the village is little different to what it is outside; training is as hard as ever.

During my brief visit into the village on Thursday afternoon, I bumped into head swim coach Graham Hill, who was heading off for a late lunch, having left the swimmers for their daily siesta. “The swimmers are sleeping,” he explained. A few hours later he would tweet a pic of himself at the Olympic pool, overseeing yet another training session.

Women’s hockey captain Marsha Marescia was rushing back from training, carrying a kitbag. “I’m late,” she shouted across the road. “I have to go for physio.”

The physiotherapists are located on the first floor, and they are visible through the windows, working tirelessly to keep Team SA fit and strong.

On top of the building SA flags have been hung to claim ownership of the block for the next few weeks. On the ground floor is the administrative office, where staff deal with mundane issues most of us would rather not know about, such as issuing meal tickets to visitors so they can eat in the legendary dining hall.

Caterers offer cuisines from around the globe — British, African, Jamaican, Indian, Asian and others are on the menu, including the famous stand hosted by MacDonald’s, one of the global sponsors of the Olympics.

Every burger and nugget is free. Legend has it that the stall is empty in the early stages of the Games, but as athletes finish their competition, suddenly the demand for junk food goes through the roof.

In the London dining hall, there were one or two people ordering at the main counter, but the real trade was going down at the McCafe side, where chocolate chip cookies — every single one free — were flying out the oven freshly baked.

For athletes not sure about what to eat, there are some nutritionists on hand, with a super-duper computer programme that will provide them with an exact menu minus anything they might be allergic to.

Much has been said of the thousands of free condoms that are reportedly being dished out in the village, but I can’t say I saw a single one. Not that I was looking.

But they are there somewhere, waiting to come out in the next week or two for those legendary orgies we have heard about.

The extraordinary achievements of Olympic athletes, however, will be on view in public and televised to millions around the world.

And that’s really why they are here.

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Nothing quite like life in an Olympic village

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