Village opened by Australia's oldest surviving Olympian
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Ninty-three year old Edie Payne, Australia's oldest surviving Olympian, officially opened the athletes village at the main Sydney Games site Saturday as the first 2,000 competitors took residence.
Payne, who competed at the 1928 Amsterdam Games as a sprinter, broke down and cried in her wheelchair after welcoming the athletes and dignitaries.
The 2,000 athletes who arrived Saturday will be joined by about 8,000 more over the next 10 days prior to the opening ceremonies on Sept. 15.
There will also be 5,000 officials in residence from 199 countries as well as the territory of East Timor. They will be looked after by a staff of 7,000, mostly volunteers.
The first national group in Saturday were athletes from Finland, followed by those from Cuba and Belarus.
"This is the eighth Games village I have been to, and undoubtedly it's going to be the best of all time," said British chef de mission Simon Clegg. "The living conditions are first class. I have no doubt the athletes will enjoy it to the full."
The $350 million US village became New South Wales state's fifth-largest city with its official opening. Olympic officials say it is the first time in the history of the Summer Games that one building has had the capacity to accommodate all competitors in the same location.
The athletes at Homebush Bay will be housed in 1,000 new houses and apartments in the same general area as 13 venues hosting 17 sports. Services for the athletes include a supermarket, post office, bank, florist, travel agency, medical centre and disco.
The main dining hall will serve 60,000 meals a day.
The village will become the Sydney suburb of Newington after the Games. The apartments and houses will be sold.