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The five-ring circus: Village people

Spent a good chunk of Wednesday at the Olympic Village, the main housing location for all the athletes here in Athens. Reporter types like myself are only allowed in the International Zone, but you can still get a pretty good idea of what it’s all about. Besides providing sleeping quarters for most of the athletes, there’s a huge dinning hall, rec room, post office, Internet café, photo shop, flower shop and a big outdoor sound stage. Throughout the day groups of well dressed dignitaries file up onto the stage for pomp-and-circumstance presentations. This forced an NBC TV crew that was there

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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews associate editor

Hamilton does an interview near the Olympic Village sound stage.

Hamilton does an interview near the Olympic Village sound stage.

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Spent a good chunk of Wednesday at the Olympic Village, the main housing location for all the athletes here in Athens. Reporter types like myself are only allowed in the International Zone, but you can still get a pretty good idea of what it’s all about.

Besides providing sleeping quarters for most of the athletes, there’s a huge dinning hall, rec room, post office, Internet café, photo shop, flower shop and a big outdoor sound stage. Throughout the day groups of well dressed dignitaries file up onto the stage for pomp-and-circumstance presentations. This forced an NBC TV crew that was there to scramble, trying to get their interviews done before the band struck up again.

Chatted with U.S. pro Dede Barry for a bit and she said one of the games her and teammates play is trying to guess the sport based on body type. “You’ve never seen so many shapes and sizes,” she said. “Pretty funny stuff.”

Info at the fingertips

Info at the fingertips

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Barry also said that the sleeping quarters aren’t exactly spacious. “It’s two to a room and four to a bathroom,” she said.

The brain has been on sensory overload from the moment I got here trying to soak it all in, but one of the things that’s struck me most is the idea that literally someone from everywhere is here. Maybe that’s obvious, but it really hits you when you see a weightlifter from Turkey walking by a distance runner from Kenya.

The main pressroom is the same way. Walk down any of the hundreds of isles and you’re likely to hear 10 different languages. It’s staggering to think about the amount of news this thing generates. Imagine that every second of every day someone is filing a story, recording for radio, or transmitting television video.

One of the best features in all the pressrooms are the information kiosks. Each one grants you access to an immense database with bios on athletes for every sport being contested, plus schedules, race info, and more stats than the guys at the Elias Sports Bureau would know what to do with.

Ran across one section in the road cycling area that included all the minimums and maximums for competitors. Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli (45) and Unai Etxebarria (41) are the oldest; Ondrej Sosenka (6-foot-7) and Karin Thuerig (6-foot) are the tallest; and Magnus Backstedt (198) and Volha Hayeva (161) are the heaviest.

The torch makes its rounds.

The torch makes its rounds.

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Met some people last night who work for a Florida company whose sole mission is to play middleman for video feeds. They don’t shoot or edit anything, just acquire and send, acquire and send. Who knew you could get a job doing that.

Athens is supposed to be a nightmare of a city to get around, but between the exodus of Athenians on holiday, and the fact that there are Olympic vehicles-only lanes every where, it’s pretty easy for the buses to get you where you need to go. Did run into one jam when the torch relay passed by going in the opposite direction. Funny to think that the opening ceremonies were still two days away. Guess they’re going to have run in circles for a little while.

Can’t imagine what it’s like during normal times. This place takes urban sprawl to a new level and it’s not like L.A. where you’ve got freeways running in 30 different directions.

Okay, that’s all for today. Check back Friday for tales from the Acropolis.

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