Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Magic Kingdom of World Athletes at Olympic Village, National Lines Disappear

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Magic Kingdom of World Athletes at Olympic Village, National Lines Disappear

Article excerpt

WITHOUT question, the "in" address in Catalonia's capital city these days belongs to the magic kingdom of international hostelries - the Olympic Village. That's where athletes and officials from 172 nations break bread together, exchange pleasantries and Olympic pins, and generally lay the groundwork for the good will that is part and parcel of the Games.

"It's not a five-star hotel," says American weight lifter Bryan Jacob. "If you could afford a five-star hotel, you wouldn't get the full feel of the Olympics."

True enough, but Jacob is hardly slumming in the digs that have been constructed on the shores of the Mediterranean. The complex of mainly six-story apartment buildings, like much of Barcelona, possesses an abundance of architectural style. This ambitious urban-renewal project, which has transformed a dilapidated industrial area, will surely be one of the city's richest Olympic legacies.

"It would be quite difficult, in my opinion, to exceed the quality of this village," says Armand Calvo, the village's director, who may be biased but has reason to sound the facility's praises.

This is the first time athletes have had their own beach and marina practically right outside their doors. The setting enhances an already special environment.

"Life in the village is a remarkable moment in time," says Anita de Frantz, who rowed for the United States at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and managed one of two athlete villages at the '84 Los Angeles Games. "The village brings together 10,000 people who have been successful, who have pride and respect for one another, no matter what size, shape, color, religion, or sex."

Ms. de Frantz renews friendships she made with other Olympic athletes when she travels abroad as the United States representative to the International Olympic Committee.

Athletic villages have not always been part of the Olympics. The first was created at Los Angeles in 1932, a complex of 550 cottages for men only. The female athletes stayed at the Chapman Park Hotel.

Before that, athletes all lodged in hotels, mostly modest ones, but some on the luxurious side. The village concept not only brought the athletes together in one place, it equalized conditions. …

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