There is a new motto in the athletes’ village: Faster, Higher, Stronger, Drunker. After all the hard work of striving to win an Olympic medal is done, many competitors are transformed into party animals.This year’s venue of choice is Chinawhite, the high-end London club just off Oxford Street, the place to be seen for everyone from Zara Phillips, the Queen’s granddaughter, to swimmer Rebecca Adlington.
Ellen Gandy, who failed to make the 200 metres butterfly final, summed up the mood. “It is nice to get dressed up after spending the whole week in chlorine,” she said. “We don’t wash our hair all week because it makes our caps fall off. So it is a chance to wear make-up and go out and be a bit normal.”
The swimmers, who always finish duties midway through the Games, have long had a tradition for raucous celebrations but it was the rather more refined sport of equestrianism that got the London 2012 party started.
The Games were just five nights old when Phillips and fellow riders, including Nicola Wilson, William Fox-Pitt and Kristina Cook, were pictured celebrating their silver medal in team eventing at Chinawhite’s Last Lap night.
According to the night’s promoter, Phillips was seen dancing barefoot in a booth next to the DJ, while other athletes sipped straight from bottles of gold leaf Moët Champagne and drank cocktails of Hennessy Paradis Imperial Cognac and Luxur 24ct gold-leaf champagne, worth £2,012 a glass. The partygoers were eventually seen leaving at about 3.30am on Thursday.
Where Phillips went, other athletes were keen to follow, setting a trend that has seen more than two dozen elite Olympians hit Chinawhite’s dance floor in the last few days.
Not to be outdone, the swimmers resumed their position in the vanguard of athletic clubbers at the weekend, with contingents from Britain, the United States, Australia, France and South Africa mixing with some lucky members of the public who had paid the £50 entry fee.
After winning her second bronze medal in the pool, Adlington hit the town in a silver bandage dress and peep-toe high heels. Along with fellow swimmers Elizabeth Simmonds and Michael Jamieson, the group drank and danced at Chinawhite until 3.45am on Sunday.
Chad le Clos, the South African who beat Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly last week, also dropped into the club, dancing with his team and some Australian swimmers. “It was pretty cool,” he said. “Everyone was there, the Americans and the French team. Pretty much the whole of the VIP area was crawling with swimmers. We all enjoyed ourselves.”
Other visitors included American Ryan Lochte. His team-mate, Tyler Clary, was even persuaded to take a turn on the decks, DJing to the enthusiastic approval of the crowd.
Some athletes did not need to head into town. Hours after winning 100m gold, Usain Bolt posted a picture of himself and three Swedish women handball players on Twitter at about 3am on Monday.
But all these late nights are taking their toll on some. Clutching an energy drink in the athletes’ village on Monday, Le Clos admitted to feeling exhausted. “It’s been crazy,” he said. “I haven’t had much sleep since the swimming finished. I’ve been going to bed very late, maybe three o’clock, maybe even later. I’ve been sitting in my room trying to sleep but I can’t. Ever since I won the gold, things are different.”
The atmosphere in the village has gained an added frisson since the first competitors finished, he said. “Last night it was electric – everyone was so excited.” He and his fellow South African swimmers have made their penthouse suite on the top floor of one of the tower blocks into a party zone. “We know if we’re not competing, we can make some noise and play loud music,” he said.
Another athlete keen to relish every moment of victory is Peter Wilson, who claimed shooting gold for GB in his double trap discipline last Thursday. The 25 year-old promised to party hard after competing, vowing to “do something stupid”. As he is supported by Dubai’s royal family, as well as the National Lottery, he wanted to thank them in person the night after competing. The royal group had dinner with the brother of his coach, Sheikh Ahmed al Maktoum, at his house opposite Harrods before moving on to an exclusive London hotel, where the United Arab Emirates royals had booked an entire floor.
Here they drank enormous quantities – of tea. “It was just a late night and an opportunity to say thank you. But I will be partying hard from now on.”
Wilson sums up the spirit with a parting shot: “To get to the Olympics I’ve had six years of really hard work – six years in which you are putting everything to one side, six years where you don’t get drunk.
“So it will be wonderful to have a few days where you can just let your hair down. I plan on having two or three or four or five or six beers.”
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