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U.S. Women's Olympic Team Enjoying Village Life in Athens

U.S. Olympic Women's Soccer Team
Notes from Athens, Greece
Wednesday, August 4, 2004

BREAKFAST FOR THOUSANDS: The U.S. Olympic Women's Soccer Team rose early on Wednesday morning for a nice 7:30 a.m. breakfast at the Athletes' Village Dining Hall. Perhaps the biggest cafeteria ever built by modern man, it bears more of a resemblance to an airplane hanger than a dining facility and looks like it could feed 10,000 athletes and officials at the same time (which, come to think of it, it probably does).  The Dining Hall features a vast array of hot and cold foods, drinks, salads, breads, fruit, cheeses (oh, yes, plenty of feta) and desserts, as well as a full service McDonald's. The U.S. team was more than able to satisfy their jet-lagged bodies with some nutritious food before hopping on a bus to the American College of Greece for official Team Processing.  As the U.S. team only had about 30 minutes to eat on the busy morning, 19-year-old forward Heather O'Reilly was seen shoveling some last-second Coco-Puffs into her mouth before heading for the bus.  The U.S. team was given the usual pre-Olympic presentation by USOC officials at team processing, which featured sections on supports services, medical, media, security as well as several well-produced videos, one of which had celebrities giving their best wishes to the athletes, including Jay Leno, who channeled John Travolta and Olivia Newton John when he quipped, "remember athletes, Greece is the word."

FOUR GREATS: At the USOC presentation to start the team processing, there were four photos of legendary athletes, blown up and placed on easels around the auditorium at the ACG campus.  Those photos featured sprinters Jesse Owens and Wilma Rudolph, the "G.O.A.T." Muhammad Ali, and yes, none other than the USA's number 13 Kristine Lilly.  Not bad company for the 5-foot-4 midfielder out of Wilton, Conn., who is the world's all-time leader in international appearances with 276.

"...LIKE CHRISTMAS MORNING": After the multi-media presentation, it was time for the U.S. players to receive their official Olympic gear, which featured so many t-shirts, sweats, polo shirts, hats, tank tops and official U.S. Olympic Team uniforms that 20-year-old midfielder Lindsay Tarpley, in her first Olympics, described it as "like Christmas morning."  Due to the massive amount of gear, and the travel the U.S. team will be doing during the Games, all the players had to ship much of the apparel back home, where it no doubt will be stolen by friends and family members.  The players also got sized for their official Olympic rings, took individual photographs and a team photo (which had to be taken quickly as it was outside in full sweats and U.S. forward Abby Wambach almost melted like the Wicked Witch of the West).  After lunch at the ACG, the U.S. team relaxed for a while before gearing up and conducting a 90-minute training at Paraskevi Field adjacent to the ACG in the USA's first action on Greek soil.

HAIRCUTS AND SHOPPING: In the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, the U.S. team spent very little time in the Olympic Villages, so the team, and especially the veterans, are enjoying the experience.  Many players took the warm evening to explore the massive Athlete's Village, shop for official Olympic Gear at the store, get haircuts (they're free!) or hop on the Internet at the many available computers.

THE DIGITAL AGE: This will no doubt be the most documented Olympics in women's soccer history as each U.S. player seemingly has both a digital camera and a digital video recorder, with flashbulbs seemingly constantly popping as the excited players try to save almost every moment for posterity.  There will likely be 18 copies of the exact same photo for some of the better shots, as the players whip out the cameras like gunslingers when the chance arises.

THURSDAY AT THE MPC: The U.S. team will train Thursday morning at 11 a.m. at Appollon Stadium and in the afternoon, four of the USA's young stars -- Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx, Cat Reddick and Heather O'Reilly -- will conduct the first USOC Press Conference of the 2004 Olympic Games at the massive Main Press Center at around 4 p.m. local time, giving the Athens-based media a chance to talk to the U.S. players before they depart for Crete the next day.  The USA will train on Thursday evening in Heraklio on the island of Crete, where the USA opens its Olympic competition on Aug. against host Greece at Pankrito Stadium (6 p.m. local / 11 a.m. ET on MSNBC)

U.S. midfielder Aly Wagner on catching Olympic fever:
"I can't stop smiling and I can't stop talking.  I swear someone is going to tell me to shut up at some point.  I see a tree, and I'm like, 'Hey guys, look at the Olympic tree!'  But seriously, it's amazing.  I had no idea how huge the village would be.  The dining hall is bigger than my high school."

Midfielder Kristine Lilly showing she has not lost the appreciation for the special feel of the Games:
"This is the third time around and the Olympics still amaze me. The team is definitely just getting more excited and into the Olympic fever each day.  It's been hot, but not too hot.  There have been great mornings and cool evenings.  The food has been great, although I haven't tried the Greek food yet, but I heard it was good."

Defender Cat Reddick on her Athletes' Village experience so far:
"This is an exciting place to be, although I kind of feel like I am at ODP Regional Camp, except with five stars.  When I am back in my dorm room, I feel like I'm back in Montevallo, Ala., for Region 3 camp, but once you leave your room, there is a buzz everywhere, there is the biggest dining hall in the world, and anything you could ever want.  There are lots of stores, free haircuts, manicures, pedicures, banks, and a post office.  It's full-service!"

U.S. forward Mia Hamm on being in the Athletes' Village:
"It was fun seeing everyone so excited today getting their new gear.  It's just a unique experience to walk around and see all the other athletes, get our meals in the largest dining hall known to man and to talk with the other U.S. team members. Our team has never had the chance to be in the Village for a few days in a row, so to get a taste of the of the entire Olympic experience and see all the other athletes from other countries pouring is definitely raises the level of excitement."

STAT OF NOTE: Of the 18 players on the 2004 Olympic Women's Soccer Team, only nine participated in the 2000 Games.  The nine first-timers are:
GK Kristin Luckenbill (Paoli, Pa.); D Heather Mitts (Cincinnati, Ohio), D Cat Reddick (Birmingham, Ala.); M Lindsay Tarpley (Kalamazoo, Mich.), M Shannon Boxx (Redondo Beach, Calif.), M Angela Hucles (Virginia Beach, Va.), M Aly Wagner (San Jose, Calif.); F Abby Wambach (Rochester, NY), F Heather O'Reilly (East Brunswick, N.J.).