Kiwis give Olympic living quarters thumbs up
When a bunch of Kiwi blokes sets up flat in east London, it doesn't take long for empty bottles to litter the living room.
But, in the New Zealand men's swimming team's case at the London Olympic Games athletes village, it's all in the name of pre-event hydration.
Daniel Bell, Steven Kent, Glenn Snyders and Gareth Kean are sharing a two-bedroom apartment in the Kiwi compound where they have exclusive use of a tower block in Mirabelle Court.
They welcomed the New Zealand media in yesterday with Bell proudly pointing out the steadily growing pile of water and sports drink bottles inching up the lounge-room wall.
“And we've only been here for three days," Bell said, signalling at the scores of empties. “If you ask nutritionists, at this stage of the season, hydration is just as important as the food you're putting into your system".
Next door, Natalie Wiegersma and Penelope Marshall recline on their beds and insist their room is “better than the boys".
Wiegersma, a medley swimmer affectionately dubbed "Dutchie", has taped up family photos to give her side a more homely look. Marshall, a freestyler and backstroker, blogged that her first day in the village ranked among “the best 24 hours of my life".
Bell and Snyders are at their second Olympics and reckon their London locale is superior to their 2000 quarters in Beijing, and “a helluva lot better" than the Delhi digs at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. “You feel a lot safer here," Bell said.
He quips that room-mate “Stevie snores a bit" but Bell still gets a decent kip despite the dramatic climatic change from wintry Taranaki to heatwave-hit London.
Kean, a first-time Olympian, is glad the Olympic village beds are extendable to accommodate taller athletes. “I'm 6ft 4in, [so it makes it] a lot more comfortable at night."
Snyders says the big, sun-catching balconies are a bonus. “I spend a lot of my time out there, reading or chilling out."
Bell admits the Kiwi quartet have been lapping up the London rays, “tanning and getting a bit of colour on the skin so we look better in our Speedos".
The Black Sticks women's hockey team hustles out of a meeting to line their balcony when they hear a haka is about to break out to welcome athletes and cyclists to their home village.
The upper-floor eyries are excellent vantage points for some celebrity-spotting, a time-honoured Olympic village sport.
The 24-hour main dining-hall is a great spot for gawping. Everyone has to eat. Kiwi equestrian Jonelle Richards trotted up to get her photograph taken there with tennis superstar sisters Serena and Venus Williams.
The dining hall could be trap for young players and a magnet for dietary police charged with ensuring athletes stay on the calorific straight and narrow before a post-competition pig-out.
Our visit yesterday brought to mind a tale about New Zealand boxer Garth da Silva at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Da Silva, son of a prominent New Zealand wrestling champion, liked to tell a tale on the after-dinner circuit of how his national coach, John McKay, caught him in the dining hall with a teetering tower of McDonald's burgers and fries on his food tray.
McKay, knowing da Silva was due to compete internationally after the Olympics, asked him what he was doing. “Don't worry, coach, it's for the whole team," said da Silva, who claimed it took some time for the penny to drop he was our only boxer at Atlanta.
But Penelope Marshall has been on better behaviour this week. “I grabbed a plate of fruit and a delicious yoghurt muesli thing from McCafe!," Marshall blogged.
“There is every food you can imagine in the food hall and I am very excited for after the swimming has finished to try everything I please."
If the Kiwis want to chill, former boxer Trevor Shailer and his athletes services team, have set up a “bean bag hangout place" at the base of the Kiwi accommodation tower. A big-screen TV has pride of place and Shailer and his crew were pretending not to watch British TV agony uncle Jeremy Kyle.
Two New Zealand Olympians celebrated birthdays yesterday - swimmer Samantha Lucie-Smith turned 20 and footballer Dakota Lucas marked his 21st birthday on the Oly-Whites' reserve bench in their unlucky 1-0 loss to Belarus at Coventry.
Shailer joked the Kiwis were “going to run a 21st here, with a keg" in Lucas's honour.
Those seeking cerebral challenges can play Connect Four or pit their wits on a giant-sized chess set at The Globe, the athlete recreation area.
The athletes' village couldn't be better sited on the perimeter of the Olympic stadium complex at Stratford.
New Zealand team chef de mission Dave Currie agrees with his senior athletes that “is by far the best" Games village in his experience, dating back to Sydney in 2000.
And there's another added bonus: The Kiwis "can't get any further away" from the Aussies, sequestered “on the other side of the village".
- © Fairfax NZ News