The Commonwealth Games Village Experience
-Author: Olympians Association Of India
It’s the XXI Commonwealth Games that just came to an end and my Team India did phenomenally well.
As the excitement rings on in my heart for a few days, there were a few things that stood out for me. I’m sorry, did I forget to introduce myself? I’m a VIP of sorts and have the privilege to be noticed everywhere I go. I hang around the best in the business and provide them access to wherever they choose to go.
There is so much news about the athletes and their performances, and about the CWG 2018 being the ‘Game Of Firsts’, but what I have for you today is a sneak peak into my experience as a mute spectator at the Games.
Gold Coast had a fabulous set up. Throughout the city there was free public transport to allow CWG event tickets holders to move from one venue to the other in time. All one needed was to swipe/scan me to enter sporting venues. The tourists and fans and sports enthusiasts were well taken care of. The competition venues were world class and made for the most conducive environment for athletes to perform at their best.
The Games village is an integral part of the experience for all athletes as it is their home away from home during the Games. Each host country tries to make the village special and comfortable for the athletes and their entourage; while they try to retain the global flavor considering there were 71 nations participating in the Games, they also showcased the culture of the country.
Olympic villages have several; I had heard about the Games village a few times – about the positive and electrifying atmosphere in there. And this one at Gold Coast was no different. What was distinct though was the display of regional art and massive murals. What struck me most was a Fingerprint Mural – Yes Mate, made of fingerprints of all involved at the Games – A fitting recognition of all the behind the scenes staff and the mighty number of ‘Game Shapers’ that is the volunteers without whom the Games would not shape out successfully. It was like a tribute yet a piece of art that would go down in history.
Another thing that caught my eye was a tree with full blooms that replicated the cheerful climbing guinea flowers, which are regional to eastern Australia, each bloom bore the name of an athlete who won a medal at the Games. By the end of the Games the tree was to be in full bloom.
Whilst admiring the art and achievement, I realized it was time for the big final – our legendary boxing champion Mary Kom vs Kristina O’Hara from Northern Ireland. I decided to sit with my colleagues and watch the bout on the giant screen put up in a semi-lounge area, can’t describe in words what I felt when Mary won the GOLD!!
What an exhilarating experience it was to watch the whole place light up in excitement of the match, I felt the power of sport – transcending borders. Though I had INDIA proudly printed on my being, I was part of this world where each of us were sportspersons first and then from continents, countries etc. all come together to celebrate the special moments sports brings.
And those moments don’t come only while competing. I had great fun walking along with a Nigerian and a Malaysian athlete, both taking me to the merchandise store at the village to buy some memorabilia for my family back home.
Post shopping, I came across a multi-faith hall and got curious. As it turned out, with me stood athletes of various faiths praying in all earnest. It was serene.
By now I had cultivated a fairly substantial appetite. The dining area was a food paradise with various cuisines. Doctors and nutritionists, helped athletes with their special dietary requirements. I fancied an ice cream to save me from the warmth of the sun above my head from the lovely ice cream/ shake stalls that catered to everyone at the village. Food was free of cost of course, available 24hrs a day and served with a smile.
Post that meal, a walk beckoned, I walked past the resident zone allocated for the athletes (contingent wise) and some administrative offices. Whilst the resident zone was buzzing with athletes chatter, at the administrative offices, officials made clusters and discussed strategies for their upcoming competitions; I was ready to retire in this apartment kind of building assigned to my large Indian contingent.
From a room I heard a sound – just like teenage boys screaming, I peeped into the games recreational room, only to realize there was a table tennis doubles match underway with an Australia-Solomon Islands team battling it out against a Malawi-Singapore pairing. A frenzied crowd cheered for this friendly, recreational match.
The other end of the corridor was an instant photo booth with the mascot Borobi; an adorable blue koala kind of creature. Kids flocked there for instaprints.
I hopped onto the bus that moved around into the village and hopped off at the training grounds at the village, and waved at some of my mates from India and hurried to the next stop. It was just in time for another match I wanted to watch. It was time to be a spectator again and cheer on the effort and participation of the athletes – irrespective of the result.
In the end, India performed beyond imagination – the records, medals, everyone putting in their best effort. Hearing our National Anthem being played 26 times was rather surreal, I was like a patriotic child saluting the flag each time it found its way right to the top.
But for me the true winner was the spirit of sport.
It truly is a revolution we build of bringing the world together through sport a vision of the great Pierre de Coubertin, father of the Modern Olympics.