Whoa, the Olympics kind of snuck up on me this time around! For anybody new to the games, you might not realize that most Olympics athletes stay in what's called the Olympic Village.
And do you know what they have there? Freebies upon freebies upon glorious freebies.
So while you and I have zero access to them, I thought it might be cool to list some of the awesome freebies that the world's finest athletes are enjoying right now at the Tokyo 2021 Olympic games and beyond!
Note: I originally published this for the Beijing 2008 games, but I've updated it with new information and links every two years since!
You'd think that elite athletes would eat nothing but healthy food during their training and for the most part, you'd be correct. However, since it takes a ton of work to make it to the Olympics, most athletes tend to take a break once they're finished competing and enjoy the finer aspects of dining. As Dutch rower Michiel Bartman put it:
The most fun thing I remember from the Olympic Village was the food court. It was huge, almost the size of two football fields, and great. So many choices of different and delicious food; you could try every night something else. McDonald’s is one of International Olympic Committee sponsors and were prominently placed in the food court as well.
Irish rugby player Harry McNulty shows a bit more of the cafeteria option in Tokyo 2021 when he took us on a tour in this video.
Of course, there's more than just junk food and candy. The Village has a ginormous cafeteria stocked with every food imaginable: fresh fruits, veggies, meat, breads, drinks, and everything else imaginable. If they don't have what you want, chances are one of the dozens of chefs cooking will be able to whip it up for you. As a matter of fact, I tried to apply for a spot as one of the chefs, but was told that my peanut butter & jelly sandwich specialty was already covered by somebody else.
The athletes don't have to worry about tainted food, either. After fears that commonly used pesticides and growth hormones might seep into the foods and trigger false positives during Olympic drug testing, China set up hundreds of organic farms to specifically grow food for the Olympians. However, they even went one step further and set up a tracking system for every single food item. So if a track star from Uganda thinks his carrots taste a little funny, it'll be no trouble tracking their history to see where they were grown and who handled them.
A quick side note: guess how many apples were eaten in the Beijing 2008 cafeteria? An estimated one million. Or to put it another way, they ate about 936,000 bananas, which is enough to circle the Olympic marathon route more than three times.
Athletes spend so much time training that they sometimes run out of time to take care of all those superficial needs. Then they suddenly arrive to the games and remember that a few billion people are about to watch them compete. Luckily, they can get a free haircut, eye examination, manicure, and pedicure to spic and span themselves up for all of those cameras. I mean, if you're going to smash a few world records, why not look your best while doing so?
Of course, what if an athlete gets seriously ill? No worries, as there are 200 physicians on staff at the free village clinic. I wonder if there are any veterinarians on staff for the equestrian horses. If I was a betting man, I'd put my life savings on yes.
And who has time for washing their underwear when they're representing their country on the world stage? No worries for Olympians, as the village comes with their own free in-house laundry service.
Free Decked Out Rooms
When I travel abroad, I'm lucky if I stay in a place with running water. When Olympians travel to the games, they stay in rooms equipped with a wideband line (what the heck is that?), a telephone, network and closed-circuit TV (so they can watch every event live), an infrared burglar-proof warning device and a fingerprint lock. You know, on second thought, that sounds better than the places I live here in the states! Well at least they won't be able to drink the tap water…what? Oh, they can drink the tap water. Doh.
Each country tends to have their own cluster of apartments as well, which are identifiable by the giant national flags they tend to unfurl out of the windows. So there's the German complex, the Polish complex, etc. As the games start to wind down and everybody has finished competing, it's pretty easy to image most of them morphing into giant party complexes.
Library? Oh yeah. Internet cafe? Check. Amphitheater, shopping centers, coffee shops, gardens and gyms? Ok, this isn't fair. My own home town isn't even this fun. How do the athletes even find time to go to their events? I'm pretty sure if I was staying over there, I'd miss every one of my events. In fact, I'd still be hanging out after everybody had long returned home. It's like a freaking freebies paradise over there.
Free Language Lessons
There's nothing quite like knowing the local language that can make or break a trip. Carry on a simple conversation in their native tongue and chances are they'll be impressed. Ask them why their cheese house is depressed and they'll probably think you're insane.
That's why many host nations offer free language lessons! Fingers crossed Michael Phelps took a few free Chinese lessons and used them to impress even more people.
Let's see, there are roughly twenty to thirty thousand athletes and coaches staying in the Village during modern Olympics. The Committee expects to go through 100,000 free condoms and as we learned in 2012 – the very sexy math is accurate.
But the image of a celibate Games began to flicker in '92 when it was reported that the Games' organizers had ordered in prophylactics like pizza. Then, at the 2000 Sydney Games, 70,000 condoms wasn't enough, prompting a second order of 20,000 and a new standing order of 100,000 condoms per Olympics.
I'm so finding a way into the next Olympic Village. Anybody want to start training with me to get on the water polo team?