LONDON OLYMPIC VILLAGE, June 30 (Reuters) - The world’s athletes will be thronging the London Olympic Village in a few weeks’ time and ‘The Globe’ will be there to greet them.
Forget William Shakespeare, and the bard’s thatched riverside theatre of that name, and think Party Central instead - albeit a quieter, more considerate and neighbour-friendly one than most social hubs.
This will be a place to celebrate victories, savour golden moments, drown sorrows and escape from the nightmare of sweaty room mates once the Games start on July 27.
The Village ‘pub’ and club, with 10 pool tables, a bookable private cinema, bar, stage, computer gaming area and garden among its many attractions, The Globe was rocking on Friday night as Games organisers LOCOG tested the facilities for the first time.
Music pounded out across the evening air amid a hubbub of excited chatter as overnight guests, invited for what LOCOG chief executive Paul Deighton dubbed the “first Olympic sleepover”, made the most of a free bar.
“Don’t get too comfortable, this place is popular,” declared a sign on the walls.
That will soon be even more the case, when up to 16,000 athletes and officials from more than 200 nations take up residence, but it will also be a lot less raucous.
The bar will be alcohol-free, for a start, and noise levels will be monitored carefully.
For those fed up with living within elbow-scraping reach of one another - most of the apartments in the 11 blocks are two beds to a room - it could be a refuge or just a place to make new friends.
“We wanted to have a space where they could come, have a game of pool, watch a film,” said Emily Brett, the athlete services manager. “This is for their enjoyment, we don’t want this to be a hub of noise.”
The Olympic Village in Stratford, the east London one and not Shakespeare’s, cost 1.1 billion pounds ($1.73 billion) of public funds to build and is divided into ‘Countryside’, ‘Seaside’ and ‘Heritage’ zones.
It is adjacent to the Olympic Park.
“We always promised them they would be competitors not commuters,” Deighton told Reuters. “We’ve been able to pay attention to the fine details and really look at the experience through the eyes of competing athletes.
“When the athletes arrive, I think they’ll be really happy with what they find.”
There are sculptures and ornaments dotted around the park, a Truce Wall is going up and an ‘eco-awareness sustainability pod’. There will be karaoke and rockaoke - karaoke with a live band - in The Globe but no comedy acts due to language barriers.
A multi-faith centre will be created and there will be places in the Village Plaza for athletes to get fingernails painted in national colours, to have Olympic rings shaved on heads or buy flowers and get clothes dry cleaned.
The 24-hour dining area has 5,000 seats in an area big enough to park 880 double-decker buses, with LOCOG describing it as the world’s largest peace-time facility of its kind.
By the end of the Games, it will have served an estimated 1.2 million meals and munched through 25,000 loaves of bread, 75,000 litres of milk and 2.7 million bananas.
There is halal food, cuisine from around the world and a ‘Best of Britain’ central area whose offerings include brown sauce and English mustard.
“We’ve all lived in villages and had good experiences and bad experiences,” triple jump gold medallist and LOCOG Athletes Committee chair Jonathan Edwards told Reuters, outlining the three core requirements:
“It’s a good night’s sleep, the food that you want to eat, when you want to eat it and also the transport system.”
In Sydney, returning to the village in the early hours after countless media interviews following his success, the one thing he had craved was an ice cream. There were none.
Edwards has helped with the mattress specification and advised on everything from food to the blackout curtains in every bedroom.
The apartments are light, functional and airy with wi-fi, beanbags and television. There are no kitchens, which will be installed after the Games when the village is sold to form a new East Village community.
And then there is the bed, decked out with a duvet carrying the words “excellence, friendship and respect” and decorated with sporting symbols.
If it is good enough for Usain Bolt then it was certainly good enough for me, a reporter who can spend longer groping for his reading glasses on waking up than the towering Jamaican takes to run 100 metres.
Who knows who the next occupant will be? I may not have the stuff of an Olympic gold medallist, but I have tried the mattress. I have slept in the bed of champions. ($1 = 0.6376 British pounds) (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Patrick Johnston)