Friday 22 November 2019

The secret olympian: You'd swear it was dublin on dole day

One of the perks of being an athlete at the Olympics is the amount of new team clothing you get before the Games.

All of team Ireland got brand new Asics kit, everything from socks, to running shoes, rain gear, tracksuits, training tops, competition gear, casual gear, umbrellas, water bottles, hats and sunglasses.

Our team outfit is really nice, but with athletes from every country walking around the village in tracksuits, hoodies and sunglasses, you can't help thinking it's a bit like Dublin on dole day.

I've heard there's a 'members club' in Shoreditch House where athletes can go and collect a free pair of Dr Dre Beats headphones in their team colours. Although Beats are not an official sponsor of the Games, they have found a cheap way of attracting a lot of publicity for their product by giving them out free to athletes.

While they might not get much publicity from me showing them off, having guys like Michael Phelps and Tom Daley arrive wearing them in front of seven or eight million people won't do them any harm.

The Olympic Council of Ireland also give every athlete about 50 Olympic pins on the day you arrive in London. Some athletes use them, some don't, but I've used almost all of mine.

Apart from the clothing, the pins are the best pieces of equipment we get. It's amazing the amount of athletes that swap pins during the Games and if you keep a few in your pocket as you wander around the village, it's a great way of meeting new people and chatting to them.

All of the staff in the village want them too -- from the security staff to the cleaners. Some people really go to town on them and you see them walking around the village with their accreditation weighed down with these pins. If you've ever been to Disneyland and have seen people walking around with their hats or jackets plastered in little Mickey Mouse and Disney character pins, then you get the idea.

I have never asked anyone for a pin, but I have loads from other countries from people asking me for swaps. They also have a place in the village where you can go and exchange team clothing. I could bring in my top and swap it for Usain Bolt's running singlet, Bradley Wiggins' cycling jersey or whatever is in there at the time. It's a pretty cool idea.

Getting out of the village is pretty easy and sometimes it's nice to wander around the shops or down the street, just for a change of scenery. Right outside the village is a massive shopping centre called Westfield. When you first go there it's a bit of a culture shock. There are hundreds of people just hanging around, waiting for athletes to come through the doors, videoing you as you walk in, asking for photos, autographs, pins, anything.

As usual, you get the odd person looking for a photo to be taken and doesn't know how to work their camera and you're left hanging for a few minutes. But it's nice to be able to meet a few Irish people and have a bit of a chat for a minute or two.

Getting back into the village is not quite as easy as leaving it, which is why I always double and triple check that I have my accreditation with me on the way out.

Athletes have a different entrance to coaches and staff, while people coming in on a day pass have another entrance and this always seems to have the longest queue.

A lot of countries are allowed to bring their families into the village on day passes and while it would be pretty special to be able to show one's nearest and dearest around, the Irish Olympic Council have decided that it would cause too much hassle and opted not to let anyone from Team Ireland bring their families in.

There are three separate accreditation checks before you come to the actual screening area which is just like an airport security check.

Here, you have to unload your phone and empty your pockets. Your pass is checked again and then they scan it again at the final check after all that.

All the security checks are a bit of a hassle, but unfortunately it's a sign of the times we live in.

Irish Independent

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