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Village: Gym where everything goes
Associated Press, PTI
Athens, August 27, 2004
First Published: 02:18 IST(27/8/2004)
Last Updated: 02:18 IST(27/8/2004)

The Jamaicans dance between workouts. The Chinese do stretching exercises. The Cubans request funky R&B music when they come in. The Micronesians are simply overwhelmed. And the Americans are nowhere to be seen at mid-afternoon rush-hour in the Olympic Village gym. The most successful Olympians come first thing in the morning for their workouts. "They're very serious" say the gym's staff.

The exercise center is a microcosm of the games themselves. Located in a far corner of the village, on the opposite side from the gigantic cafeteria, Internet point, hair salon and flower shop that is the hub of village life, athletes from every country imaginable get down to the business at hand, fine-tuning their bodies for their next event.

The gym, exclusively supplied by the same Italian company as in Sydney four years ago, hosts 1,500-1,600 athletes per day and up to 600 at once.

It is divided into cardiovascular and weight-training sections like most modern club gyms. But the similarity ends there. Perhaps no other workout facility has housed such a variety of athletes.

"This is like a dream. It's unreal," said Marz Akapito, the coach for Micronesia's two athletics team members. "It's like we don't know what to do, there's too many things. You can see people doing all kinds of things." Indeed.

"The Russians and the Kazaks are very serious," said gym staff member George Giomataris. "The Argentines and the Brazilians talk to everyone, it's like a party when they come in. And all the Africans are very nice.

"The Cubans request funky R&B music when they come in." Lots of people forget their mobile phones and accreditation's on the treadmills, according to another staff member, Michele Moro.

Peak hours are 6 a.m. to noon and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The stationary bikes are rode for 20 kilometres on average, for a total of 45,000 kilometres during the games. The average treadmill run is 8.4 kilometres for a total of 31,000 kilometres and the staff calculate that 67,000 tons of weights will be lifted by the time the Olympics end.

Davor Stefanek, a Greco-Roman wrestler for Serbia-Montenegro, was hardly recognizable as he rode a stationary bike. With a hood covering his head, several pairs of pants and shirts, a jacket and socks pulled up over his pants to keep any sweat from pouring out, it was impossible to determine if he was a man or woman. "I've got to lose two kilos for the weigh-in tomorrow," he muttered through all the layers of clothing, hoping to make the 60-kilogram class.
Michaela Michalopoulou, a member of Greece's handball team, was getting ready to ride a bike a few steps away. "The other day, after they had finished part of their workout and were waiting for the machines, some of the Jamaicans just started dancing," she said of her most memorable gym moment. "It was very entertaining."


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