Village life: Terror plots & tiny beds
Tue, 17 Jul 2012 2:55p.m.
By Europe Correspondent Melissa Davies
London's Summer Games is missing one vital component… summer. So when the sun shone for the first official media tour of the Athletes Village, games organisers must have sighed in relief that it would be seen in all its splendour.
Games volunteers were there to welcome the crowd. Clad in matching tracksuits, the ‘magenta magicians’ (as London Mayor Boris Johnson likes to call them) pointed reporters in the right direction and when I say ‘pointed’ that's literally what they did. They stood no more than 50 metres apart from each other wearing those big foam hands I'd associate with American baseball. I wonder if they knew this was the job they'd be allocated when they enthusiastically signed up to volunteer in the Olympics, but they're so smiley and helpful it obviously doesn't bother them.
After the quick PR spiel at the main press centre about how wonderful the village is and Johnson's rundown of all the facilities available, "just about every legal form of entertainment in London", it's now time to head to the buses which will take us to the Athletes Village.
The park covers 500 acres so it's no surprise to me that the bus driver takes a wrong turn on the way there and for five minutes we wait for it to do a 20-point turn to turn back. There's no hurry in any case because when we arrive there's a long queue to get through airport-style security procedures.
After making our way through all of that with heavy camera gear it's tempting to flop down into the deck chairs laid out on the manicured lawns inside the entrance to the village, but New Zealand Chef de Mission Dave Currie comes to greet us and show us around the New Zealand quarters.
It's spacious but minimal. Think brand-new budget hotel. It's really just a place for the athletes to have a hard-earned rest at the end of the day. I do feel sorry for the likes of Val Adams and Mahe Drysdale though, the beds are only five foot eight and they are both at least 20 centimetres taller than that, but organisers are apparently looking at ‘bed extensions’.
Clearly a lot of thought has gone into the legacy of the Games. These apartments will be turned into private living quarters when it's all over. The athletes poly-clinic will be turned into a hospital and the gym will become a school. Never mind that just over the fence from this shiny development is one of the biggest clusters of grey and dreary council estates in east London.
Last week two men living just one-and-a-half kilometres away were arrested in relation to an alleged terrorism plot. Nice neighbours. But for the games at least security teams will swarm the park. In fact, we had our media passes checked at least five times despite the fact we had bright purple armbands to show we had been screened and allowed to be there. We couldn't even leave the park without proving who we were and drinking the bottle of water we'd received inside. It seems strange the athletes are not allowed to take water OUTside their village.
Olympic organisers are understandably keen to control every possible threat they can but they can't control everything. Almost as soon as we left the park it absolutely bucketed down with rain for the rest of the afternoon.
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