A couple of days in to the Weymouth Paralympic experience, and already I’m exhausted! Life here has that strange ‘other worldly’ feel about it – as if I’m living in some sort of parallel universe. Since I arrived on Tuesday evening my feet have barely touched the floor, and I have rapidly become assimilated into the Paralympic machine.
As a member of the Sailing Sports Specific Volunteer team, I have the honour of being part of the only team in the whole of the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics to be accommodated in the Olympic Village here in Weymouth and Portland. It is an extraordinary experience to be living and working in such close proximity to the athletes, although many procedures are in place to ensure that we do not encroach on the athlete’s space and that they are given every opportunity to do whatever they need to do to prepare and ensure their greatest chance of peak performance. There are a number of areas which are designated ‘athlete only’, including a leisure area, the gym, and the athlete’s dining room. Some are keen to keep themselves separate and quiet, which is absolutely respected – but others are more friendly and open, and willing to stop and chat and really appreciative of the support that the volunteer Games Makers are offering to help their event run smoothly.
The Olympic Village here is an amazing legacy project. The accommodation is in ‘Officers Field‘, a development of stunning new houses, which after the games will be finished off and sold; and many of the administration functions and athlete spaces are housed in what will become a new primary school right on the very tip of the Isle of Portland. In a year or so, this will be completely integrated into the local area and provide a lasting benefit to the local community.
I’m staying in a 4 bed house, each room sleeping 2. The finish is a bit ‘rough and ready’ – painted floorboards rather than carpet, and bare wooden stairs, but it’s warm, clean and more than comfortable. There is a bathroom on each floor, so one bathroom to two bedrooms, which is just about workable as long as we don’t all have to be at work at the same time! Ironically, the houses don’t yet have kitchens, as this enables them to be classified as ‘unfinished’ and therefore council tax is not payable on the properties. As we are unable to bring liquids into the village for security reasons, and are only supposed to take one bottle of water or soda per meal, making sure I have adequate to drink isn’t always easy, which has caused me a few problems with cramp and muscle pain.
However, one feature of the decor has to be the gorgeous quilts on the beds – we’ve all fallen in love with them! Specially made for the Olympics and Paralympics, they are a bright feature in an otherwise quite bare feeling room.
One very special feature of the village is the ‘field of flags’ fluttering outside the dining area, a constant reminder of the incredible number of nations represented at this Paralympics. I’ll try to get a photo tomorrow – I always seem to be rushing through there, grabbing food before dashing on to the next job!
Well, ’tis an early start in the morning as it’s practice race day and cauldron lighting in the afternoon, in preparation for competition commencing on Saturday 1st September, so I’d best sign out for now… G’night!