Fri, Jul 27, 2012 - Page 18 News List

LONDON 2012 OLYMPICS: Olympians find home away from home at the Village


Super-rich soccer players bed down along the corridor from penniless gymnasts, while an Australian husband and wife are banned from sleeping together.

Welcome to the Athletes’ Village at the London Olympics, a complex of 11 blocks housing 2,818 apartments described by the organizers as “gold medal standard.”

Each night, competitors will return after crushing disappointment or glorious triumph to either cry on their teammates’ shoulders, or hold impromptu victory parties.

Although a familiar feature of Olympic life for most competitors, the relatively modest accommodation at the Athletes’ Village is a new experience for the players in the UK’s soccer team.

Liverpool midfielder Craig Bellamy, more accustomed to five-star hotels, admits it is an eye-opener.

“It is all new to us,” he said. “It’s a lot different. You eat with other athletes, but it all adds to the experience.”

Bellamy said that top soccer players are “usually kept away [from other people],” adding: “So we have to embrace this.”

Australia shooter Russell Mark found his arrival in the village less comfortable after he was told he would not be allowed to share a room with his wife, Lauryn.

Mark, 48, and his wife, who is also on the Australian shooting team, have been told to room separately.

Clearly many athletes are finding a way to meet up, judging by the organizers’ decision to distribute 150,000 condoms in the village, reportedly 50,000 more than at the 2008 Beijing Games.

The Australians were quick to make an impression, spreading banners reading “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie; Oi, Oi, Oi” on several balconies.

They have even hung an inflatable kangaroo from one apartment.

Another block has a long banner in the Belgian colors hanging from a balcony, while others were decorated with Slovenian, Norwegian and Team Ireland flags.

The basic rooms have artwork by schoolchildren on the walls.

Competitors are two to a room and are even allowed to take home their colorful London 2012 duvet.

The UK’s double Olympic gold medalist swimmer Rebecca Adlington tweeted a picture of her bed, complete with Team GB mascot.

The beds can be extended to accommodate the tallest of athletes.

While some of the soccer players were prepared to give the village a go, it is just not luxurious enough for the US basketball “Dream Team” — Kobe Bryant and the rest of the squad are taking over an entire boutique hotel in London.

It means they will miss out on the extraordinary range of food on offer at the village.

US 400m hurdler Kerron Clement sparked headlines with his claims that it had taken four hours to travel across London from Heathrow Airport to the village.

However, his next tweet raved about the food on offer, saying: “Love the variety of food choices.”

Tessa Jowell, British Olympics minister from 2005 to 2010, is a deputy mayor of the village.

“I think the athletes will love it. It transcends nationality,” she said. “The athletes are arriving, the excitement is palpable. All those years of preparation and it’s all about to start.”

To pass the time, competitors can spoil themselves with complimentary salon treatments, where they can have a hair cut, get a shave, a facial and also have their nails painted with one of the 207 nail-sized flag designs.

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