Heading to the Rio Olympic Village I had visions of being taken away by the Olympic spirit and energy while still having time to take myself away to quiet comfortable places to reflect. Whilst the former has been true the latter takes more discipline to achieve!
The village is a melting pot of nationalities proudly decorating their 23 story buildings with their country colours. It is huge, 28 modern high rise buildings rising from what was once a Rio favela, and can house up to 17000 athletes and support staff during the peak times of the Olympics. This was the weekend I arrived last Saturday.
Seeing the towering structures for the first time was daunting. It was imposing. The word village would be better replaced with city. And while 17000 people in a 2 square km precinct in itself impressive feeding them all is more so! The food hall resembles a exhibition centre where a few thousand people can sit and enjoy the offerings from a wide ranging menu and where one could possibly walk several hundred metres in the hunt for just the right set of ingredients to replicate ’the perfect salad’. And while some may not think it convenient to hunt through the two dozen serveries and ’help yourself buffets’ to create a balanced plate it is one challenge that I have quite enjoyed.
Life in the village is a cross between high school, college life at university and a high performance training camp. Seeing Olympic legend like Asbel Kiprop, Kirani James and our own ’Boomers’ sharing the same dining hall experience is a constant reminder that this is a very special place. This is the Olympics.
So 5 days into my village stay I think I finally have this ’temporary city’ figured out. I can run, eat, sleep and ’hang’ with Australian team mates from all sports in our Australia team Hub or Lounge with Channel 7 coming through on multiple screens. It almost feels like homeâ€¦..except to share this space and time with some of our best Australian athletes is not an everyday experience for me. It is special, and for me humbling.
So while the village enters the final few days of winding down activities and athletes depart to parts unknown I will soak it up for just a little longer. The marathon, as most everyone knows is the book end to this festival and I for one am glad of that fact.