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Olympic Media Villages Offer Home Away from Home for Journalists

  • Parke Brewer

For every Olympics, an Athletes Village is created to house the thousands who will take part in the sporting events. But what about the thousands of journalists who cover the Games?

While many are in hotels scattered about the host city, most stay in so-called Media Villages, typically new high-rises in the suburbs where apartments will be rented or sold after the Olympics. VOA reporters covering the Rio Summer Games are staying in one of them west of downtown Rio.

The home away from home is simply called Barra Media Village 1. Village 2 is across the road, and together the two large complexes house more than 2,500 journalists. The new facility is 30 minutes from the Olympic Park, but about 90 minutes from iconic Copacabana Beach. One other large media village is a little closer to downtown Rio.

A two-story dining facility is adjacent to the pool in Barra Media Village 1 in Rio de Janeiro. (P. Brewer/VOA)

A two-story dining facility is adjacent to the pool in Barra Media Village 1 in Rio de Janeiro. (P. Brewer/VOA)

Like much of the pre-Rio Games infrastructure, the buildings were built "against the clock," which according to Dirk Gerlo, a Belgian radio and TV reporter who has covered eight Olympics, means they have their drawbacks.

Dirk Gerlo is a Belgian radio and TV reporter who has covered eight Olympics. (P. Brewer/VOA)

Dirk Gerlo is a Belgian radio and TV reporter who has covered eight Olympics. (P. Brewer/VOA)

"You enter the apartment and then you see that, of course, they had to build them really rapidly," Gerlo said. "In our apartment, we had some problems with the toilets, with the showers and so on."

Gerlo told VOA that conditions in Barra Media Village 1 are a call to humility.

"You know it is low-budget,” Gerlo said. “You see it. You cannot compare it with what we have, for example, in Belgium. But you have to realize that they've done a rather good job in very difficult times."

There is only one dining facility for the nine large buildings, and it can get very crowded in the morning as the staff tries to keep enough food out and available.

"It's basic, but it's okay. I accept it. You have to live with it," Gerlo said. "We are all used to so much luxury, and then I think ‘OK, let's just accept this and do our job.’ "

Media village offers such free amenities as internet, a workout room, a swimming pool, a convenience store, and even a laundromat — if a machine is available.

Alison Morrow is a journalist for a U.S. TV station who is covering her first Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. (P. Brewer/VOA)

Alison Morrow is a journalist for a U.S. TV station who is covering her first Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. (P. Brewer/VOA)

But like most reporters, Alison Morrow — from a TV station in the United States and covering her first Olympics — says there is little spare time to enjoy those perks.

"I'm poolside. I look out on the pool, I mean. I'm never here, so I can't go in the pool," Morrow said. "But I like it here. They've got this commissary that has everything that you need. So it's made things a lot easier. It could be a lot worse."

That grocery store, with higher prices than traditional supermarkets, is the oasis for media village residents.

Ana Beatriz is a store clerk in the Media Villages in Rio de Janeiro. (P. Brewer/VOA)

Ana Beatriz is a store clerk in the Media Villages in Rio de Janeiro. (P. Brewer/VOA)

Ana Beatriz, one of the store clerks, told VOA it is the busiest between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and midnight because of the long days of sports competitions.

"The journalists mostly buy beer and water, and sometimes they buy snacks, too. Sometimes food for the microwave, when they are starving," she said.

And at the end of those long days covering the many sports in and around Rio, there is even a bar that stays open late for those who have the energy for a drink or two before bed.

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