Life Inside the Athletes Village at the Olympics or Commonwealth Games

July 17, 2018 at 8:28 AM

With the Commonwealth games just finished I thought I would give you all an insight into what its like to be inside an Olympic or Commonwealth Games village and to be part of the ‘greatest show on earth’.

I have been fortunate enough to be a physiotherapist at the 2008 Beijing and 2016 Rio Olympic games as well as the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. 

Whilst on TV we see all the action in terms of the competition and the interviews, we often don’t get to see too much of what it’s like behind the scenes inside the athletes’ village. These villages are built to house all participating athletes, as well as officials and athletic trainers, physios, and health coordinators for the athletes. No parents or press are allowed on premises. More often than not, they are built from the ground up, costing as much as $13 billion to build, as was the case in both Rio and South Korea.

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The village itself resembles a small town.  Close to 20,000 people live in the village during a summer Olympic games, about half of that for a Commonwealth game, and everything you can find in a small town you can find in the village. From cafes, to entertainment areas, gyms, and swimming pools, the village has it all.  Even the more mundane amenities are included like groceries, laundries, and even a post shop. There is one distinct difference, however… everything is FREE!

The epicentre of any village is the dining hall.  In Rio, I stood at one end and couldn’t see to the other end it was that big! Able to seat over 5000 at any one time, the dining hall is open 24/7 and has every imaginable food on offer.  It becomes so commonplace to sit opposite global sporting superstars at dinner that you don’t even blink an eye when one of them joins your table by the end of the games.

With sport becoming more and more professional and athletes looking for every edge possible, nutrition is an important part of a complete performance.   With nearly every dish imaginable on display 24/7 in the dining hall,l there are no excuses not to eat well. The temptation of less healthy food is there, but usually,y the dedicated athletes save that for after they have finished competing.  Certain officials and support staff have been known to put on a few kgs during the games, despite the gym being a few minutes walk away.

And then there is the medias favourite village news story…the free McDonalds.  For some reason when its free it’s an even bigger temptation for athletes and officials alike.  In Rio they had to put up a sign limiting patrons to a ‘Maximum 20 items per customer’.  Call me old-fashioned but I just ordered 3 items. 

And as quick as it fills up and turns into a bustling town for about a month, once the games are over, the village turns into a ghost town.  After the games are finished, the accommodation blocks are usually sold off as apartments and the village turns into a small neighbourhood.  Then it’s just a matter of waiting another 4 years to do it all again in another city and country! 

 

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Darryl Reid

 

Darryl Reid is a Senior Physiotherapist, specialising in reoccurring spinal pains, sports injuries and chronic pain. To book an appointment with Darryl click here or call us on 09 366 4480.