Athletes' village unveiled
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Donna Ritchie was thrilled when she saw the athletes' village for the Sydney Olympics. She then discovered something she wished had not been so perfect.
Ritchie, captain of the Australian women's wheelchair basketball team, joined in the tour Wednesday as Olympic officials unveiled the village that will house athletes for the upcoming Olympics and Paralympics.
"I see we're getting front-loading washing machines. At Atlanta, the washing machines were not accessible for me. I was hoping I would come here and someone would have to do my washing," she said with a laugh.
With 37 days left before the start of the Sydney Games, organizers showed off the largest athletes' village in Olympic history. Within weeks, it will become one of Australia's largest cities.
More than 15,000 athletes and coaches from 199 nations will move into the village beginning in early September. Other than a handful of competitors, such as the members of the U.S. men's basketball team, all Olympic athletes will live in the village.
The athletes will live two-to-a-room in about 1,000 comfortable, yet cozy, apartments and houses. Some multi-room apartments will house up to 20 athletes and coaches.
The rooms have twin beds, with extra-long mattresses available for extra-tall athletes. Towels will be changed every two days, and sheets will be changed every four days.
There is one bathroom for every four athletes. The living room has white plastic lawn chairs and a small table. There is no kitchen, since all athletes are expected to eat in a huge communal dining hall.
After the Sept. 15-Oct. 1 Olympics and the Oct. 18-29 Paralympics, the village will be converted into a suburb called Newington. About 70 percent of the houses have already been sold, at prices of up to $385,000.
The low-rise housing is spread over a huge area, meaning shuttle buses will carry the athletes to the dining hall and other village facilities.
"Some of the athletes from developing countries freaked out at the 23-story high-rise buildings in Seoul (in 1988)," said John Coates, president of the Australian Olympic Committee. "It is good we have a low-rise village."
The village will have its own newspaper, a gym capable of holding 375 people and a massage-therapy center at which up to 25,000 massages are expected to be given during the games.
There is also a "body center" that will offer free treatments such as a 30-minute anti-stress facial, a 15-minute scalp massage and a 30-minute "foot fantasy."
A village square about the size of a football field is flanked by a dance club, a religious center offering Bible study, a place for athletes to create their own Web pages, and a huge room offering free video machines.
During the tour Wednesday, five policemen gleefully played a game of virtual pistol shooting -- until Olympic officials, worried the scene would be photographed, shooed the police out of the arcade.
"You can't live in a village for so long with nothing to do, or else you'd go crazy," former Australian swimming coach Laurie Lawrence said. "This is a place for them to have something to do."