Unlike many of the crazy stories floating around in the media leading up to the games about the Olympic Village being more like a club filled with sexy athletes, hyped up on nerves, adrenaline surging through their bodies, in desperate need and ready to let loose it's much more of a laid back, subdued college campus kind of feel where the dress code is athletic casual and everyone has enormous "school" pride. It's not open to the media, and gaining access is a quite challenge, passes for family or friends are limited to four per athlete for the entire games, and must be requested 48hrs in advance, require a background screen, and are not guaranteed. In fact you specifically need a credential just to be able to leave the Village, unless of course you don't plan on returning.
Once inside you can view the athlete living quarters, walk around, perhaps be lucky to catch a glimpse of someone famous and of course take a tourist picture under the giant Olympic rings. If you were planning on eating in the dining hall be ready to shell out 20pounds for the largest cafeteria style buffet you will ever witness. Other than that its a place to call home for about 2 weeks, a place to come back to after training sessions, a places to gab with one another between events while watching on TV fellow teammates and countrymen compete, it's a place to "relax" while nervously contimatelting one's upcoming performance.
The accomidations are just fine, the beds neutral, the lack of AC only noticed the first few hot days, the rooms always freshened, the staff always attentive, courtious, and smiling. The food is available 24hrs around the clock, with a selection of food from all over the world, all enthicities represented every meal everyday. The food while "ethnic" is still a caferteria verision of the real authentic cusine that each athlete left behind back home. It needs to be salted and seasoned to one's own taste. It is always prepared fresh and served hot. It has thankfully agreed with my sensitive stomach while leaving me craving good old NY style pizza and bagels. The McDonalds in the Village is free all day all the time to the athletes. It is a tease and temptation for many reservered for post competition while others indulge more frequently...I'm not judging I'm just saying. I have surprisingly enjoyed the Indian food selection the most, and have heavily relied on bread, brie, and humus as staples at almost every meal. The pasta is disappointingly cooked in oil and too oily for my stomach. Overall, it has suited me fine and I look forward to indulging in a chocolate croissant after competing! The beverages are just perfect with a selection of water, juice, powerade, and assorted coke products not to mention the coffee and teas. I personally love the apple juice because it tastes more like the apple cider I get after apple picking back home! I have also more recently been drinking the peppermint tea after dinner because the evenings are pretty cool here in London.
In addition to eating, the cafeteria serves as a social gathering where if one chooses you can meet with other teammates, countrymen, or anyone from any team from any country. The easiest way to start a convo is by swapping pins. Almost every country gives their athletes pins that represent their country and or event at the Games. The purpose is to trade one's pins with other athletes from all over the world. I have thoroughly enjoyed the pin swapping aspect and have pins from about 26 different countries! I also have a few from other USA Teams such as gymnastics!
Pins are a big thing here at the Olympic Games and it's not just athletes in the Village but spectators and staff workers too that get in on the pin trading action. Also various IOC Olympic Games Partners and Sponsors give out their pins to the athletes and spectators alike. Lastly some of the biggest pin people are the "Olympic Aficionados" as I refer to them who have traveled all over the world to watch the Olympics for years and have quite the collection of pins. Most of the time these people aren't even able to access inside the venues of the Olympic park but sit right outside where the athletes and spectators traffic thorough waiting for you to stop by and checkout their collections. They have some of the coolest Olympic pins from past and present!
I met one of these such persons a few days ago and low and behold he is from Smithtown, Long Island, NY. What a small world! He had heard of me and was delighted that he got to meet his town's local Olympian. We swapped pins and he kindly hooked me up with some older 1996 Atlanta Pins. His dream is to get into see the Olympic Village, perhaps someone has an extra visitors pass he/she is not using to make Mark's dream come true?
Aside from sleeping, eating, and trading pins there is not much else to do in the Village. There is a gift shop which in my opinion is over priced but hey everyone has a lot of people back home that helped get them here that they owe a souvenir to. There is also a post office, which has been extremely useful as I have sent out 30 post cards so far! They sell collectors stamps as well as mail out letters. There is a little infomation booth to help you navigate London as a sightseeing tourist. They were helpful when Lacy and I were venturing out the first few days and trying to find the best route on the underground. Then there is an athlete lounge that has some more tvs, couches, computures and even pool tables. They also have a life size jenga and other games that athletes can play. At the Powerade Bar you can get free drinks (that is Powerade or water). Powerade was also awesome because they allowed each athlete to design his/her own reuseable sports bottle. Each bottle has three bands on it and you can write whatever you want as well as pick the color you want for each band. My reads: Maria Michta, United States of America, Dream Believe BECOME, in Red, White and Blue respectively! Had I known about this in advance I wouldn't have had my own bottles shipped here. Oh well yet another free perk I have been lucky to receive, and one more item to send back home with my family!
Oops I almost forgot one more thing you can do here in the Village: Laundry! Well actually the athletes themselves don't have to actually do the wash, nope they spoil us and do it for us, for free! I have already had three loads of my stuff washed here. They wash and dry it automatically which means some of the nice athletic gear I got will have to wait to go home to wash, can't go ruining my new clothes in the dryer! Sorry Mom, but at least 1/2 my clothes will come home clean!
And that's Village Life in a nutshell, it's pretty chill and pretty sweet being an athlete here. I wake up, train, eat, relax, Skype home, watch the Olympics on TV, eat while watching Olympics on TV, go out see an event live or do a little sightseeing, eat again, relax some more and either Skype or watch more Olympics on TV, go to bed under my Olympic bedspread, wake up and repeat again! Hope I haven't bored you, but remember the exciting stuff is really what's unfolding around the park at the venues. It's the goals scored, the points earned, the landings stuck, the jumps cleared, it's the save made or the one that got by, the head to head battles, the behind the scenes smiles, waves, and tears, it's the anthems played, the medals hung, the flags raised, those are the moments that make the Olympics, that's where all the real action, excitement, and drama is! 3 days left until it's my turn, 3 days left to lay low, relax in the Village, 3 days left of nervous anticipation steadily escalating, until the gun goes off and it's my real Olympic moment!
Now it's time for me to say Goodnight, and crawl under my Olympic bedspread, besides you have lots of exciting events to watch that are on tape delay back home! Goodnight from the Village!
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Olympic Pin Talley: 26Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Lebanon, Great Britain, Uganda, Poland, Netherlands, Chinese Tiapie, Bahamas, Costa Rica, Spain, Australia, Jamaica, Luxembourg, France, Sweden, Czech Republic, Russia, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, USA Gymnastics, Italy, Ireland, USA Waterpolo