The INSIDER Summary:
• Living at the Olympic village seems like a total blast.
• And the athletes say it’s as fun as it looks.
• INSIDER spoke with three Olympians about what it’s really like to be an athlete at the games.
Turns out that living in the Olympic village is exactly as fun Simone Biles made it seem during the Rio games. In fact, according to Olympic swimmer and two-time gold medalist Cullen Jones, attending the event as an athlete is just like summer camp (but with a heck of a lot more condoms).
“What most people don’t realise is that it’s a lot like summer camp,” Jones, who competed in both Beijing and London, recently told INSIDER. “You’re brought into this place where you’re staying in dorms with teammates and people maybe that you don’t know.”
Jones’ teammate Jason Lezak, who’s been to an impressive four Olympics (Sydney, Athens, Beijing, and London) agreed.
“He’s talking about the camaraderie. It’s pretty amazing,” Lezak told INSIDER. “There’s little cliques and things like that, but it’s all positive and we’re all supporting each other having fun. There’s a lot of downtime [for] playing games and cards or whatever. It’s just a bunch of guys and girls enjoying themselves and taking advantage of that time.”
Of course, the camp-esque environment can also be detrimental, especially for first-timers. At his first Olympics in 1988, swimmer Mel Stewart was still a high school student. He said he found the experience exciting — but draining, too.
“I was overwhelmed,” Stewart told INSIDER. “It was like going to Disneyland, and I got exhausted physically and emotionally the way you do when you go to Disneyland. I was so caught up in the grandeur of the games and all the emotion that I didn’t perform well.” (O
n his second go-round at the 1992 games, he fared much better: Stewart won two gold medals that year.)
Jones said that the trick is to strike a healthy balance between fun and focus. “You’re here to perform,” he said, “but at the same time to experience this amazing thing that we call the Olympics.”
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