By ROBERT HARDMAN
Welcome to planet Games: The Mail's Robert Hardman discoveed a distinct feel of North Korea in the Olympic Village
The Dear Leader is striding across his domain, pausing now and then to inform the television crews that everything is just wonderful.
We walk up Celebration Avenue, down Cheering Lane and across Victory Park. One of these identical blocks of flats, I observe, is called Festive Mansions.
It must be said that nothing feels terribly festive around here. And it’s not just down to the strict ban on alcohol. Festive Mansions is actually in a district called the ‘Seaside Zone’.
Victories: Victory Park in the Olympic Village holds accommodation for the competing athletes - both winners and those who fail to get the gold medals
Low cost: This is a place where you can have all the free scoff, free massages, free haircare, free condoms and even free dental treatment you might want, says Robert Hardman
It is a strange choice of name, given that we are miles from the sea, although there is a nice view of the A12. But then the neighbouring identical ‘Countryside Zone’ is pretty low on flora and fauna too.
Never mind. You leave reality at the door when you enter the shiny new people’s utopia of the London Olympic Village.
Brand new: There is a pub with free (soft) drinks and helpful neon signs reminding you to cheer up
There is a feel of North Korea with food and electricity, a Soviet factory town where everything actually works.
This is a place where you can have all the free scoff, free massages, free haircare, free condoms and even free dental treatment you might want.
A performance area at The Globe ready for speakers and singers to take the stage during the Games
The relaxing social area at the Olympic Village at the Olympic Park in East London
There is a pub with free (soft) drinks and helpful neon signs reminding you to cheer up. ‘Love & Laughter’ says one. ‘Live the Dream’ says another.
The 16,000 identical beds (all single, free condoms notwithstanding) have ‘Excellence, Friendship, Respect’ printed on the identical duvets.
There is no dog mess or squawking to sully this beautifully sterile atmosphere. Animals, like children, aerosols, bikes, walkie-talkies and, bizarrely, hard suitcases, are banned. So, too, are the Press — except for today. So I have come for a preview. And I find the Dear Leader is in full flow.
Motivational: Signs inside the pub say ¿Love & Laughter¿ and ¿Live the Dream¿
Downtime: Athletes like Usain Bolt will be able to relax by playing pool
‘Capability Brown eat your heart out,’ says Boris Johnson, gesturing at a spread of freshly laid, freshly mown turf.
‘This knocks Club Med into a cocked hat.’ It might even start to resemble a bit of London once the Games are over, all these bans are lifted and this £1.1 billion complex is eventually converted into 2,818 affordable homes.
The Mayor of London is attempting to bring a smile and some badly needed cheer to an Olympic movement that is feeling pretty battered. It’s been a grim few days for the lords of the rings.
Joyless: Robert enjoys a meal in the village dining room which boats 5,000 seats and will see 60,000 meals served daily
There was the news that the planners have messed up the security arrangements yet again, as a result of which 3,500 troops are to be hauled in to make up the shortfall.
Then it turned out that the M4 flyover, the main road from Heathrow Airport to the capital, is actually in such a bad state that it may not reopen until next week — or later.
Spartan: Robert visits one of the the athletes quarters in the Olympic Village. After the Games the £1.1billion complex will be converted into 2,818 affordable homes
It was already hard enough to get into Heathrow thanks to the queues at immigration. Now it’s a nightmare getting out of it, too.
To be fair, all Olympiads go through last-minute horrors. And Mr Mayor is doing his best to play it all down here in Happy Plaza or Joy Crescent or wherever we have got to in this germ-free paradise behind the razor wire.
‘In PR terms, this is a trough moment,’ says Mr Johnson striding on to inspect an aircraft hangar that turns out to be the dining room.
Training: This image shows a room inside the gym
‘But there are peak moments to come — a whole Himalayan range of peak moments, in fact.’ The Olympic Village dining room is certainly one of the seven wonders of the catering world.
Indeed, it is apparently the largest canteen on the planet, with 5,000 seats. Its food counters are as large — and joyless — as airport check-in desks. The Halal counter alone could accommodate an entire Jumbo-load to New York.
Impressive: The world's top athletes will have access to this gym
Enjoyment: This is a room for athletes to listen to music while relaxing
Organisers point out that you can park 880 double-decker buses in this room and that 60,000 meals will be served daily.
Even more impressive is the fact that the caterers are scheduled to rotate 1,300 different recipes in every eight-day period in order to vary the diet. Except for the cooks at the giant McDonald’s restaurant in the corner, that is. They will produce the same menu they do every day all over Britain.
Nutritionists may tut-tut about offering limitless round-the-clock Big Macs to the fittest people on the planet but the simple truth is that a lot of athletes prefer this stuff.
To the despair of the health lobby, Usain Bolt admitted that his record-breaking exploits at the 2008 Olympics were achieved on a diet of chicken nuggets.
Unwind: Computer games are also located in the village
‘The doctors and dentists and nurses are all volunteers,’ says clinical leader, Laurence Gant. But any Olympians in need of more serious medical treatment will have their own designated service — or ‘pathway’ as they call it — at nearby Homerton Hospital.
Some athletes are never going to want to go home. Olympic sponsors P&G (Proctor & Gamble as was), have set up an Olympic Village salon that will offer free beauty treatments night and day to all-comers.
It has recruited a team of manicurists who have been trained to paint the national flags of every single country on to ten fingernails in under half an hour.
Large: The site is an open-air campus the size of a market town
‘The U.S. Virgin Islands is the hardest,’ says Mitra, 21, from Tottenham. ‘It’s got an eagle on it.’ Boris Johnson drops in, followed by 50 camera crews. The nail team offers him a Union flag on the end of every mayoral digit but he settles for a spot of buffing.
The security around here is tight — absurdly so at times. On arrival, I have my bottle of Diet Coke confiscated (‘securiteee…’) then have my Olympic pass rescinded because the computer has got my date of birth wrong by a week.
The Press are all herded on to buses which, astonishingly, manage to get lost on the half-mile journey from the Press centre to the Olympic Village.
Massive: The dining hall is apparently the largest canteen on the planet, with 5,000 seats
It takes three airport-standard searches before I am allowed inside the village. I can see why you might conceivably not want to let someone take a sharp object or an aerosol on a plane.
But this isn’t a pressurised metal tube laden with petrol. It’s an open-air campus the size of a market town. What’s wrong with packing a can of deodorant for a fortnight of athletics?
If you have waited for a couple of hours at immigration and then spent an afternoon stuck on the M4, you may have a serious sense of humour failure when you arrive at the Olympic Village only to have your hairspray and standby bottle of victory champagne confiscated by someone in a loud shirt saying ‘securiteee…’
Ready: This is the last aerial view of the 2012 Olympic Park in Stratford before air space over the site is closed
Dear leader Mayor Boris Johnson receives a manicure. The complex will offer free massages, free haircare, free condoms and even free dental treatment you might want
According to the official blurb, it is ‘a great example of collaboration between London 2012, Government, charity and business … funded by Defra as part of their Inspiring Sustainable Living Programme, managed by leading sustainability charity Bio-Regional, with support from Coca-Cola.’ I can picture the earnest committee meetings, the Whitehall memos, the endless debates about the name, the funding, the logo…
Security problems: A soldier on duty at the Olympic park in Stratford on Thursday. He'll soon be joined by 3,500 other troops
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