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Village people bed down in London

2012-07-23 11:24
Olympic rings (AP)

London - Super-rich footballers bed down along the corridor from penniless gymnasts, while an Australian husband and wife are banned from sleeping together.

Welcome to the Athletes' Village at the London Olympics, a complex of 11 blocks housing 2 818 apartments described by the organisers as "gold medal standard".

Each night, competitors will return after crushing disappointment or glorious triumph to either cry on their teammates' shoulders, or hold impromptu victory parties.

Although a familiar feature of Olympic life for most competitors, the relatively modest accommodation at the Athletes' Village is a new experience for the players in Great Britain's football team.

Liverpool midfielder Craig Bellamy, more accustomed to five-star hotels, admits it is an eye-opener.

"It is all new to us," he said. "It's a lot different. You eat with other athletes but it all adds to the experience."

Bellamy admitted that top footballers are "usually kept away [from other people]", adding: "So we have to embrace this."

Australia shooter Russell Mark found his arrival in the village less comfortable after he was told he will not be allowed to share a room with his wife Lauryn.

Mark, 48, and his wife, who is also on the Australian shooting team, have been told to room separately.

The veteran, competing at his sixth Olympics, said Australian officials had enforced the ban because Lauryn had angered officials by posing in a men's magazine holding a shotgun over her back dressed only in a green and gold bikini.

Mark said he and his wife were being punished for being a married couple.

"The stupid part of this... is that there are tons of gay couples on the Olympic team who will be rooming together so we are being discriminated against because we are heterosexual."

But Nick Green, chef de mission for the Australian team, dismissed the claims.

"It is simply not true... accommodation and bedding are done in a particular way to ensure all the athletes are accommodated in the village."

Clearly many athletes are finding a way to meet up, judging by the organisers' decision to distribute 150 000 condoms in the village, reportedly 50 000 more than were given out at the 2008 Beijing Games.

When not arguing over their sleeping arrangements, the Australians were quick to make an impression on the village, spreading banners reading "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie; Oi, Oi, Oi" over several balconies.

They have even hung an inflatable kangaroo from one apartment.

Another block has a long banner in the Belgian colours hanging from a balcony, while others were decorated with Slovenian, Norwegian and Team Ireland flags.

The basic rooms have artwork done by schoolchildren on the walls.

Competitors are two to a room and are even allowed to take home their colourful London 2012 duvet.

Britain's double Olympic gold medallist swimmer Rebecca Adlington tweeted a picture of her bed, complete with Team GB mascot.

The beds can be extended to accommodate the tallest of athletes.

While some of the footballers were prepared to give the village a go, it is just not luxurious enough for the US basketball "Dream Team" - Kobe Bryant and the rest of the squad are taking over an entire boutique hotel in London.

It means they will miss out on the extraordinary range of food on offer at the village.

American 400m hurdler Kerron Clement sparked headlines with his claims that it had taken four hours to travel across London from Heathrow Airport to the village.

But his next tweet raved about the food on offer, chirruping: "Love the variety of food choices."

Tessa Jowell, Britain's Olympics minister from 2005 to 2010, has been appointed a deputy mayor of the village.

"I think the athletes will love it. It transcends nationality," she told AFP.

"The athletes are arriving, the excitement is palpable. All those years of preparation and it's all about to start."

To pass the time, competitors can spoil themselves with complimentary salon treatment, where they can have their hair cut, get a shave, a facial and their make-up done.

They can also have their nails painted with one of the 207 nail-sized flag designs.

And home comforts can always be found - a Colombian athlete who had run out of shampoo and had been using washing-up liquid was given a bottle of the real stuff, a salon worker told AFP.

Read more on:    olympics 2012

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