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Where Are Olympic Athletes Staying in Utah? - 2002-02-09

With the 2002 Winter Olympic Games set to begin this Friday, the bustle of activity around the Olympic Village is intense. The Olympic Village houses all the athletes, coaches and team officials.

Nestled against the snow-covered Wasatch Mountains, the Olympic Village is located at the Fort Douglas military museum in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee member Richard Tyler is overseeing the Village while it's being used for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

"The Olympic Village here is really on an historic site. So we have the characteristic of being in a beautiful setting, it has historic buildings and a quality of the architecture and buildings that really has a charm all of its own," Mr. Tyler.

Founded in 1862 to assert Federal authority in Utah, Fort Douglas is a museum but also continues to be used as a base of operation for U.S. Navy and Marine Reserves. For now, it is home base for 3,500 athletes and officials. And it's heavily guarded. At least 600 security personnel are on guard 24 hours a day and access is carefully controlled. Every person, vehicle, box, piece of mail everything - is screened before entering the area.

"The guys who stand here and check you in, they know exactly who you are and where you're going. It takes a 24 hour notice to get on the list to get in the next day," Mr. Tyler explained.

Mr. Tyler says most of the security measures are standard for the Olympic Games. So he says they are nothing new for athletes who have stayed at Olympic Villages at previous games. And Mr. Tyler says with so many people living together, once in a while a little "in-house" security is necessary. Conflicts can occur because many of the athletes are on different schedules: bi-athletes go to bed early and get up very early, for instance, while some of the indoor venue athletes may be on a completely different schedule.

"When the hockey team is being bothered by the cross-country team, if it's causing disturbance to others outside of their team, then just like at a hotel, we will certainly go visit the noise makers and ask them to quiet down," he says.

But Mr. Tyler says for the most part, the athletes are fairly respectful of each other, realizing they are all there to compete, and so they are generally well-behaved.

"This is going to be the Olympic museum. All this stuff with the athletes is great, but the public cannot see it, it's exciting to talk about," he says.

It seems athletes lead a pampered life at the Olympic Village. The operating budget to maintain it is $25 million. It's a community complete with chauffeurs and a spa, a coffee shop and flower shop, a bank and a museum… all the elements of a small town. But instead of houses, athletes live in coed dorms and apartments with no more than two athletes per unit. And in this city, everyone shares a giant dining room, big enough to feed 650 people at a time. Don Pritchard, Director of Food Services for the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee, ensures that all those hungry athletes are well fed.

"Right now we're at about 15,000 gallons of milk, just in the athlete village alone and the rest of it is still comin' so those cows out there…keep going. We're goin' to need plenty of milk," he says.

The dining room even has a McDonalds fast food restaurant. But the food is not limited to American cuisine and mainstays like milk and McDonalds. With athletes from nearly 80 different countries, Mr. Pritchard has to keep up with dozens of requests for foods from all over the world.

"Probably the most interesting request we've had of late is "kim-chi," which is fermented cabbage product that comes from Korea. As of yesterday, 1,300 pounds arrived in the United States at our distribution warehouse," he says.

It cost about $120 million to convert the 30 hectare site into the Olympic Village. For nearly one month, it will be a lively international city united by the human potential to excel in sport and camaraderie.

"There is certainly a lot of fervor going on. There is a good feeling in the air and everyone is very welcoming and warm and they are excited to be here. It's a wonderful site," Mr. Tyler says.

With the athletes safe and pampered at the Olympic Village, let the Games begin.