London's splendid Olympic village

Organisers have gone all out to make facilities among the best they have ever been at world's premier sporting event.


    'You know the French were so unimpressed with the food the last time the Olympics were here in 1948 they sent their own refrigerated train full of meat.'

    So says London mayor Boris Johnson through a mouthful of salmon in the gigantic Olympic dining hall, one of the first men to sample the range of cuisine here.

    I am sitting with him disturbing his lunch in the aircraft hangar size facilities, where over 16,000 athletes and officials will dine during the Olympics, which begin on July 27.

    A lot else has changed since 1948 when there was no such thing as an 'athletes village'. Many competitors slept in local schools and post-War rationing was still in place.

    This Olympic canteen will serve 60,000 meals per day.

    As I make my way through the neat cluster of shops and facilities in the village plaza - including a hairdressers and a post office - I spot Olympic historian Philip Barker. What he does not know about the Olympics isn't worth knowing.

    Pinnacle of sport

    Are these the best facilities athletes have ever had?

    'I don't think there have been better says' Barker, gesturing to the pleasant landscape that's been created but referring mainly to the actual facilities.
    The Olympics is about athletes maintain Seb Coe and the London organisers. They have been adamant that the main focus is now on the competitors.

    Coe says these people - from over 200 competing countries - have been training hard for years not months to get to this pinnacle of sport.

    And they come in all shapes and sizes. In the athletes apartments there really will be larger beds for longer, bigger athletes.

    Rest easy Usain Bolt. Sleep well the basketball and volleyball teams.

    And when they are not sleeping it is not all work work work. There's a leisure area with computer games, 10 pool tables, table football, a bar - non-alcoholic drinks of course - and a jukebox on which the most popular song will undoubtedly be ‘London Calling’.

    When the games are over East village becomes 3,000 apartments - some luxury some more affordable, a ‘polyclinic’ for healthcare, even a school.

    Lest not forget legacy was the key word when the games were awarded to London - some people, including those who cut funding for school sport, appear to have shorter memories.

    No-one will be allowed to forget the issue of security. On the day I need to ask Mr Johnson about the increase in security, yet another. 3,500 troops. A misjudgement I ask? Not at all - 'belt and braces' security he says. (just like the belt I had to remove during two airport style security checks on the way in. There is even a THIRD check on the way back to the bus to head home. Better to be safe…..)

    I may have disturbed the mayor’s lunch with security issues but he was still warming to the 1948 comparison theme.

    'It's not just the French who brought their own food in 1948…the Mexicans even brought tripe and kidneys.’

    Taking another look at the dozens of food counters I don't think anyone will need to bring any tripe and kidneys to London 2012.



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