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Last Updated: Friday August 08 2008 11:48 GMT

Jake tours the Olympic Village

Jake in the Olympic Village

Jake's in Beijing for the Olympics and got a tour round the Olympic Village, where 16,000 competitors will stay.

He tells us what it's like.

I've always wondered what an Athletes' Village is like at an Olympic Games.

In my imagination it's like a city where only supreme beings are allowed to exist and intimidatingly powerful people sit around flexing their biceps.

Well I've finally got the chance to find out about this most sacred of living quarters as I was given an escorted tour around the village here at the Games.

The Olympic Village
The Olympic Village
The stats alone are mindblowing.

There are:

  • 128 tower blocks to house athletes and team members

  • Over 4,000 staff on hand to keep the place looking trim

  • 33,000 meals a day being served by the 2,400 kitchen staff - apparently Peking Duck is a menu favourite.

Not that I got to experience these food masterpieces. Our tour was very much a controlled glimpse at village life.

Media tour

Once Eric - my producer - and I had found the bus to get us to the village, we were welcomed by two booming American voices explaining the schedule, asking us to "respect the athletes' privacy" and most of all, keeping in a group behind the barriers.

Team GB bedroom
Team GB bedroom
To be fair to our tour leaders, 30 members of the media all looking for their own story, answering phones and ignoring rules isn't easy.

So, thoughts on the village?

University feel

It's a bit like a university campus.

Just like uni there are young people hanging out on every corner, huge dining halls where some lonely souls tucked into their specific Olympic meals alone while others, mainly the Norwegians, sat in a huge group eating together and enjoying each others' company.

Dining room
Dining room
We visited the impressive gym where an Iranian judo player lifted an unbelievable number of weights, not sure who he was but I wouldn't want to meet him on the judo mat in a +100kg bout.

I'd last all of three seconds! I just hope we didn't ruin his workout with our cameras, photos and questions.


We glimpsed the apartments which to be honest looked like they were finished in a bit of a rush, but are pretty comfy.

I was surprised to find that the one we visited (we were told they're all alike) had no TV or sitting room, just a central dining room-type area, bathroom and three bedrooms.

Dining room for some of Team GB
Dining room for some of Team GB
Does this mean athletes tend to go to communal areas to chill out? I imagine they'd be better off having a more private area to relax.

I know where I'd be spending my time if I'd made the qualifying criteria in the 100 metres (an event I've always fancied) - at the outdoor 50m pool that was full of athletes practising their starts. And rather randomly one guy zipping up and down wearing a snorkel and mask and flippers!!

Preparation time

So now I know. Yes the village does make me wish I'd spent six days a week for 20 years adding muscle bulk, dedicating myself to my chosen sport, and being rewarded with a Team GB outfit.

However, I also got the impression that the village is an essential part of an athlete's preparation for the Games.

Jake meets the chef
Jake meets the chef
Everything is catered for, you're surrounded by like-minded people, and it's a place where the pressures of the nation's expectations seem to melt away in a world where DVDs, relaxation and last-minute fine-tuning of the mind take priority.

The day before the Games started it was relaxed and fun, but once the Games start, and the heartbreak or success follows the Olympians back to their digs, I expect it'll be a little more edgy.

Right, I'm off to bulk up in case my Iranian friend comes looking for me!