Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Diary post from Sydney 2000 Olympic Village

There are lots of interesting characters dropping in and out of the Religious Services Centre throughout the day. I had a relaxing chat to an Irish Boxing Coach of Cuban origin today; he’s a tall Afro-Caribbean guy who is a Buddhist, working for the Irish Amateur Boxing Association. And when he doesn’t do that, he's working in prisons teaching inmates Spanish and Than-Phong – a martial art like tai chi.

I also met Maria Mutola, fresh from winning gold in the 800m. She had come to thank Phra Mana and his team for their support. She is, I believe, the first ever gold medalist for Mozambique and has appeared at an amazing six Olympic Games – which only four other track and field athletes have achieved. And considering that was over a 21-year career, I feel very privileged to have met her. Brits might remember Maria as Dame Kelly Holmes’ training partner who was thought to have assisted Holmes’ win at the 2003 World Championships in Paris.

At lunchtime I sat in awe of the massive queue of athletes for McDonalds meals in the Olympic Village dining hall. My meals are free, so I always make sure I eat lots – easy, as the food is delicious. I take advantage of the amazing salad dishes from around the world – particularly as fruit and vegetables are so dear here in Australia, and on my backpacker budget, quite a luxury. My college friend Anna Hemmings joined me today. She's canoeing for Team GB and she gave me a guided tour of the athletes’ accommodation. I got to see all the physios at work and where her teammates hang out when they’re not competing, sightseeing, chasing autographs or generally having a whale of a time!

After lunch, I headed back to work and saw Gomez playing in the International zone. There must have been 3-40 people watching at any one time, mainly Brits working in the village and a few Team GB athletes. The lead singer was saying how surreal it all was as they usually play to packed venues. Once again I had to pinch myself that I was hanging out at an Olympic Village, nevermind having another amazing free experience as a volunteer. My only complaint was that Nelson Mandela didn’t pop in to see us, but by all accounts he was hanging out with his national team so we let him off….

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