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Stuart Holden - My First Day in the Olympic Village

In a word, the Olympic Village is overwhelming. Not in a bad way at all, but it’s just so amazing when you think about everyone that is staying here.

When we arrived at the Olympic Village, the first thing that you see is all the flags draped from the buildings, and you know that they’re filled with athletes from so many different countries. We saw a huge Greece flagfan, a cool flag from Bahrain that appeared to have a picture of their president as well, a ton of Poland scarves, a Colombian flag…there were a lot more but that’s just what I’m remembering off the top of my head. It’s great how everyone is so proud of their country and that they display it from their windows or balconies so you know who’s staying there.

Plus, it’s not just athletes, but the best athletes in the world. It’s kind of surreal to know you’re staying among all these people that are the best people in their sports. Think about it…just about every country is represented here, which is pretty cool.

Along with the Opening Ceremonies, coming into the Village is really when it hit me that we’re actually at the Olympics. Interestingly, that “this is the Olympics” feeling was the strongest when we walked into the cafeteria less than an hour after we arrived. We were pretty hungry after our two-hour bus drive from Tianjin and walking into the cafeteria all you see is athletes upon athletes.

This isn’t any regular cafeteria either, as there are a number of things that stand out. The first is the people. I’ve been to cafeterias before, but I’ve never been to a cafeteria with so many fit people! Everybody is in shape and eating healthy. Well, almost everyone…a few people strayed to the McDonalds, but who knows maybe they were getting the more health conscious items on the menu.

There are different types of foods, from Asian to Mediterranean to Italian to American. There was a salad bar, and a place to get drinks, too. Basically, it has anything you could ever want in one place. You could walk up to any area and there were chefs whipping up dishes constantly. It was pretty well organized, so there wasn’t a lot of waiting. It’s all free, too, so that helps the waiting process as there’s no need to pay and wait for your change or to sign a receipt.

There were thousands of tables, but it was somewhat tough to sit together since there weren’t any 20-seat tables of course. Although we weren’t able to sit together, it did give us a chance to mingle with some of the other athletes from other countries, which was pretty cool. I don’t remember the names of the people I spoke with, but they were French track athletes and I was able to speak French with them. It went actually pretty well, and they obviously were big soccer fans. I also talked to a few Russian wrestlers, who I’m pretty sure I could take (kidding guys…good luck on a medal!).

Actually, one thing that’s so cool about meeting people from other countries and other events is the chance to cheer them on (as long as their not up against an American!). You actually can get tickets to other events and go cheer them on, which is something that we don’t have a lot of down time to do, but maybe we’ll get the chance.

After lunch, we headed back to our rooms, which reminded me a little bit of my college apartment. There’s a big common area, and then there are rooms branching off of there. Best part was that one of the rooms coming off our common area was the equipment room, so we didn’t have to travel very far to pick up or drop off our stuff for training.

Most of the people in our area had to share a shower, but my roommate Charlie Davies and I had our own shower in our room actually! That was nice, and we may or may not have locked our room to keep it to ourselves…ah…yea we locked it. There actually wasn’t any shampoo, so people were fighting for bottles, which was kind of funny.

The coolest part about walking around the Village is when you run into other U.S. athletes. I’ve never seen so many people you recognize from TV. We saw some swimmers and divers, Lindsay Davenport and many, many more. I actually don’t know everyone we saw, but definitely recognized them. It’s great because you know who’s an American because they’re usually wearing U.S. gear and so everyone stops and talks to you to find out what sport you are in and to wish you good luck.

Before heading to sleep, everyone split up and checked out the campus, which is pretty huge. There’s a game room with air hockey and pool, a disco club (it was empty…maybe it gets busy closer to the end of the Olympics when people start winning and want to celebrate), internet cafes, places to watch movies or any of the live events – overall just a lot to do on your downtime instead of sitting in your room.

I went to the gift shop with McBride and Guzan and bought some authentic items for people back home. What did I get?? I’m not saying, so everyone will just have to wait until I get back…hopefully not until after the 23rd!

Talk to you later.