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The Olympic Village: World’s elite athletes to have rooms with a view, pizza with goat cheese

SHARE The Olympic Village: World’s elite athletes to have rooms with a view, pizza with goat cheese

Location, location, location.

Officials do sound a lot like real estate agents when they describe the Olympic Village at the University of Utah that some 3,500 athletes and coaches will call home during the 2002 Winter Games.

"It's not just the extraordinary setting with the mountains coming out of your back yard, but also that the facilities are brand new and bounded by historic Fort Douglas," Mitt Romney said.

The Civil War-era outpost "will bring a sense of Utah's culture" to its international guests, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee president said, calling the site's older buildings "charming and delightful" and the new housing "comfortable."

The university's liaison to the village, which until last month had housed students, agreed.

"To take a housing site like we have and place it in the middle of a historic district and then marry the two together is just phenomenal," said Dan Adams, the U.'s assistant vice president for student affairs.

The cost of all this to the athletes and coaches coming from as many as 80 countries beginning late this month?

Nothing.

Olympic organizers are required to provide free room and board to competitors, including housekeeping services. SLOC has budgeted $25 million to run the village, and companies like Compass Group are contributing food for some 400,000 meals.

If athletes want to spend money, they can order extras like televisions, cable, computers and telephones. But there's no charge for the room ? typically double occupancy with two bunks, two desks, two nightstands and a shared bathroom ? or for meals.Deseret News graphicOlympic Village map and sample athletes menuRequires Adobe Acrobat.

Not that cash isn't changing hands. The organizing committee is renting from the U. the residential housing area known as Heritage Commons for $28 million plus interest. The state spent $120 million to construct the housing.

Safeguarding athletes

SLOC, which on Wednesday officially took over the site through March, is adding some of its own, mostly temporary, touches. Not all are likely to enhance the 75-acre village's visual appeal, such as the giant fence that's part of the massive security effort.

Athlete safety, already a major concern because of the massacre of members of the Israeli team during the 1972 Summer Games in Munich, took on even more importance after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States.

But heightened security shouldn't lessen the experience for athletes, said David Tubbs, director of the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command. The command is working with the U.S. Secret Service and other federal agencies to make sure the Games are safe.

"Even if we have additional military personnel in there, it doesn't mean they're going to be walking around with M-16s. Our security presence is not going to be oppressive. I think it'll hopefully be a comforting presence and a very effective one," Tubbs said.

That means no prison-style fencing. "We don't have any razor wire anywhere," Tubbs said. "It's not electrified. We do have some pretty high fences and we've got shield areas (between the fencing and buildings) in terms of anything that might be an explosive device."

Other security measures include screening village mail for anthrax or other deadly bioterrorist weapons and a ban on displaying national flags that could identify where athletes from a particular nation are staying, Romney said.

SLOC is spending some $10 million on temporary facilities at the village, including a 40,000-square-foot white tent erected last fall near the residential units, one of two cafeteria-style locations where village residents will eat.

Besides the usual steam tables and salad bars, the heated tent known as "Douglas Dining" will also have the village's very own McDonalds, thanks to that company's Olympic sponsorship.

Everything from Asian-style sticky rice to 6-ounce sirloin steaks to goat-cheese pizza is on the Douglas Dining menu. The facility will be open 24 hours a day throughout the Games, while the campus' existing area cafeteria will operate from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily.

The organizing committee is also converting the small houses that ring Officers Circle into shops that will feature other Olympic sponsor products, including Hallmark cards, Smith's foods and Kodak film as well as services including a post office, bank and dry cleaners.

It will also be the site of the athletes' Internet cafe. At past Games, the computer rooms where athletes could access the Internet and e-mail were known as "Surf Shacks" and had a beach-like atmosphere, but Salt Lake's will be called the "Cyber Spot."

The Village People

The circle, refurbished some time ago by the university to provide special housing for honor students, will be the centerpiece of what's known as the village's "International Zone," the main gathering place for athletes.

"It's kind of our little Main Street," said Richard Tyler, director of the village for SLOC.

And it will be something of a media showplace for the village. The International Zone is the only area of the village that the more than 9,000 journalists accredited to cover the Games will be able to tour. Athletes can also host visits by friends and family, but the general public cannot enter the village.

The village will also have both its own 200-seat movie theater and a dance club.Deseret News graphicOlympic Village factsRequires Adobe Acrobat.

A variety of musical acts have signed on to entertain the diverse crowd. The list of performers includes the Village People, a band known as much for their funky costumes as for hits like "YMCA."

Others who'll take the stage in what was once an Army warehouse will include Bootie Quake, a disco band; C.J. Chenier, a zydecco group; Ryan Shupe & the RubberBand, bluegrass musicians; and Mathew Andrae, a classical guitarist.

There is also a fitness center so athletes can continue their training regimens and a polyclinic to take care of most medical needs, ranging from colds to serious injuries. There's even a massage center to help competitors stay loose.

What residents of the village won't find, however, is alcohol. That's standard at any athletes village, not just Utah's, in large part because so many athletes are under the legal drinking age.

The leader of the 200-plus American athletes coming to Salt Lake is satisfied with what he's seen.

"The village is more spacious than we've had in some of the past Games," said Dwight Bell, whose title is chef de mission of the U.S. Olympic team for 2002. "It's certainly not the Ritz-Carlton, but it's not intended to be."

That's evident in the athletes' rooms, which are pretty typical for student housing. U. senior Mandy Braby, 22, of Price, who was among the first students to live in the year-old residential units, said she liked the bathrooms best.

Unlike the communal bathrooms in the campus' older dorms, only four students have to share facilities in the new housing, Braby said. Of course, there were the usual problems when the housing first opened, including no hot water in the showers.

'A beautiful view'

But it's not the amenities that make the housing special, Braby said. It's the, yep, location. "You have a beautiful view," she said. Braby and other students have traded the sweeping vistas temporarily for the old-style dormitories on lower campus.

Braby's advice for the athletes who be taking the students' place? "I would tell them to take advantage of everything available," she said, as well as to ignore any suggestion that they won't be able to have fun in Utah.

"That's completely false. There's so many other things to do besides drinking," Braby said. "It's all in your attitude ? make the most of it."

One person who no doubt intends to do just that is Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee. Rogge announced just after he was elected last July that he planned to stay at the village with the athletes rather than at the Little America hotel with other IOC members.

That came as a surprise to SLOC, according to village spokeswoman Tauni Everett. "We didn't have any idea," she said. There's still some confusion about how many nights Rogge will actually spend in an apartment-style room set aside for him.

"We know he's going to be here at least for a few days. We don't know how long he's going to be here. We don't know who he plans to bring. I can tell you it will be limited because we just don't have room for all the people who will be coming with him," Everett said.

Among the athletes who'll be joining Rogge at the village is Todd Hays, the top American men's bobsled pilot. Hays, who lives in Texas, said he isn't planning to stay with his parents at their Heber City home during the Games.

Instead, he plans to stay in the village "so I can keep my eye on the competitors."

Plus he and his teammates will be able to share in "the sensation that this is a big-time event, and this is the entire world, and the atmosphere hopefully will motivate us each and every day."

Not every athlete chooses to stay in the village. Some prefer to stay closer to their venues. Others want privacy. For those who already live in the state, staying put means all of the comforts of home.

Lincoln DeWitt, an American skeleton racer, said he plans to stay in his home in Park City during the Games, especially while he's actually competing. But that doesn't mean he won't at least make an appearance at the village.

"My plan will be to spend some time there when we don't have any training going on, but once it gets down to the dates that we have training and the competition, I'll be home."

Why is he so set on being under his own roof?

"Our advantage is going to be, being able to live at home, being familiar with the area . . . being able to go home and throw your dirty clothes in the washing machine and go sit on your sofa and pig out."

Contributing: Joe Bauman

E-MAIL: lisa@desnews.com