What really goes on in the Olympic Village

By Melanie Wright for News.com.au

One of the best things about being an Olympic athlete is the Olympic Village.

Roughly 10,000 athletes call this place home for the duration of the Olympic Games and it's such a unique environment that it's not surprising it's a source of widespread public curiosity.

Here's what it's really like, based on my two Olympic Village experiences.

THE FOOD

Every athlete's favourite place is the dining hall - after all we can put away a huge quantity of food.

Walking through the front door your eyes can't help but dart directly to the free McDonald's. At the beginning of the Olympics, the lines are short with a few weightlifters, track and field throwers and marathon runners frequenting the Big Macs.

But by the final few days when most sports are finished, they can barely keep up as each athlete lines up to order 27 cheese burgers, 40 chicken McNuggets, 12 sundaes and a Diet Coke before collecting the food and walking away without needing to pay.

The room is the size of two football fields and is arranged according to food type.

Everything you can think of is on offer, including Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Mexican just to name a few.

Lucky for us Aussies, the catering is supplied by an Australian company so Vegemite is always on offer.

The dining hall in the Olympic Village in Rio, where 17,200 athletes and officials will be fed each day. Photo / Getty
The dining hall in the Olympic Village in Rio, where 17,200 athletes and officials will be fed each day. Photo / Getty

THE PRACTICAL JOKES

Stolen and misplaced mascots are common and I can remember at least two occasions where a mascot was held for ransom. At one point our very large and heavy Olympic team emu somehow made its way from the front of headquarters to the residential elevator, which made for a surprising lift buddy.

Another room of athletes decided to empty their beanbags onto their sixth floor balcony providing a steady stream of beans flowing out onto the street below as if it were snowing.

Finally, in London one of the Czech athletes decided to fly his brand new remote control helicopter inside his apartment. The touchy controls flew the aircraft straight upward and into the sprinkler, clipping the valve and flooding the entire floor. I'm quite sure this one was an accident, but it was still hilarious.

THE CELEBRITIES

The fondest memories I have of the Olympic Village are the people you meet. Athletes and celebrities commonly wander around forcing you to pinch yourself that you're actually there and a part of it.

Unfortunately, many of the international superstar athletes do not stay in the village. Not because they don't want to, but because they get mobbed everywhere they go and it's not conducive to optimal performance.

They do however, come to visit on many occasions to meet other athletes and get a taste of what the village is like. Meeting Roger Federer in 2008 was definitely a highlight but the most outstanding celebrity experience I had was with Usain Bolt in 2012.

Usain came in to visit and was immediately swamped by the rest of the athletes asking for autographs and photos. In true Jamaican style, he was only giving these out to the female athletes.

Given the crowd around him I didn't even bother to try, and to be honest I'm not much of a groupie.

Later that day however, I was walking toward the transport mall where all the buses to the venues are caught. I saw Usain walking toward me and decided I would try for a high five as I went by. Lucky for me he didn't leave me hanging and now I can claim that I high fived the fastest man on earth.

Huge fan girl moment @rafaelnadal #firstofmany #olympics #villagelife #bucketlist

A photo posted by Sarah Goss (@sarahgoss10) on


THE FREEBIES

Once competition is finished it's time to go on the hunt for the freebies. Olympic sponsors don't hold back when it comes to dishing out the merchandise given the media exposure the games bring to athletes.

Chocolate bars, free Coke vending machines, personalised water bottles, hats, beanies, umbrellas and T-shirts are just some of the freebies on offer, and when athletes start to get a bit bored there is always the free cinema, hair dresser, nail salon, and games room.

London provided one of the coolest freebies with Beats handing out Aussie themed green and gold studio headphones. And of course I can't forget to mention the widely publicised, endless supply of free condoms.

THE PARTIES

It's no secret that we swimmer's love to let our hair down when we finish competing. The downside of being in the first week is that we miss the opening ceremony.

The first heat session begins the next day and an opening ceremony can see athletes return to the village in the early hours of the morning. The upside however is that we have the whole second week to enjoy watching other sports, cheering on the other Aussies and of course ... party!

In preparation for an Olympics, most swimmers will go between one and four years without touching a drink in the effort to dedicate everything to that Olympic dream.

When we socialise we would normally do so before 9pm so that we can get to bed and make sure we are fully recovered.

There were times when I didn't even take my dog for a walk in case it affected my performance in the next training session. The lifestyle is so dedicated that when the competition ends the celebration becomes everything we couldn't do for the past quadrennium.

Usually there are a few organised parties we go along to such as those put on by Channel 7 and Speedo.

Then there are the clubs and pubs around the town that open exclusively to athletes.

Taking along a gold medal is a sure bet to gain entry to the VIP section where it's free drinks for the rest of the night.

Every day there is a new place to celebrate and it's not uncommon to see a large majority of the swimmers from around the world in the dining hall pounding the free McDonald's at 4am.

And let's just say there is a very good reason there are so many free condoms in the village. This year I expect Tinder will be very popular.

Melanie Wright (formerly Schlanger) is a five-time Olympic medallist. She recently announced her retirement from competitive swimming.

- news.com.au

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 22 Jan 2017 12:54:23 Processing Time: 666ms