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Largest athletes' village in history ready to give guests a very Rio welcome

Athletes and delegations can look forward to gifts, Brazilian juices and snacks, round-the-clock options for entertainment and eating and a warm Brazilian atmosphere
Largest athletes' village in history ready to give guests a very Rio welcome
The Olympic Village in Barra da Tijuca is nearly ready to receive its first guests (Photo: Brasil2016.gov.br/André Motta)
They call Mario Cilenti 'the mayor'. A veteran of six Olympic and Pan American Games, the èxperienced official is getting ready for the biggest challenge of his career: managing the Rio 2016 Olympic Village.
During the Olympic Games in August, this huge site next to Barra Olympic Park will be the temporary home for thousands of young athletes from around the world, all of whom have come here to live their own Olympic dream. The job of Cilenti, and his army of staff and volunteers, is to make sure that the the largest athletes' village in history provides a comfortable, welcoming and inspiring place for all those competitors.
In Rio, the village consists of 31 brand-new buildings of up to 17 floors each, with a total of 3,604 apartments, stretching 1.5km (about 1 mile) long. As well as more than 10,000 athletes, the Olympic Village will play host to officials from national delegations, including coaches, doctors and psychologists. At peak time in the middle of the Olympic Games, about 18,000 people will call the village home. Furthermore, about 13,000 staff and volunteers will be working in this massive complex.

Creature comforts

Athletes staying in the village will be treated like kings. They are, after all, the stars of the show.
The grounds will be home to typical Rio kiosks selling fruit juices, coconuts, açaí and other snacks. "We are doing all we can so that athletes don't need to leave the village," Cilenti says. "They can go out to compete and come straight back."
The complex contains a large recreation area with videogames, musical instruments and tables for snooker and table tennis. Olympic sponsors have played their part in bringing the latest creature comforts to the site; Technogym has installed a state-of-the-art gym, P&G will be managing a beauty salon and Samsung will provide each athlete with a free smartphone.
The living room of one of the apartments of the Olympic Village (Photo: Rio 2016)

Logistics and diplomacy

To manage the logistics of this Olympic-sized operation, Cilenti will be in charge of a team of about 600 people during the Games in August. Between them, they will have to make sure that a fleet of up to 300 buses runs on time and that a dining hall that operates around the clock will be able to serve an estimated 5,000 people.
Cilenti, whose first job at an athletes' village was during Sydney 2000, says that every Olympic Village is a little bit different and reflects the culture of the host country. "Beijing was perfect, everything worked very well but with a very Chinese style. There were two main roads parallel to each other. In Rio, we will have palm trees, a park, swimming pools and kiosks."
As well as logistical challenges, there are also diplomatic headaches to deal with. "Some countries request to be distant from other countries for cultural reasons. Some countries play a lot of music and make a lot of noise."
Noise restrictions will be in place at the village during the Games. Cilenti says that the main problems tend to begin during the second week, when some athletes have finished competing while others still have to complete their events. "We try to talk to the heads of delegations to avoid this."
A peek inside an athlete's bedroom (Photo: Rio 2016)

Eat, pray, compete

It won't be all fun and games. A multi-faith centre will cater to those of the Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist and Hindu faiths, with meditation rooms, religious images, holy books and even a compass indicating the way to Mecca. 
For those looking for more earthly pleasures, a special bus service will take residents to a special section of Barra da Tijuca beach, just by the Hotel Windsor.
 An aerial view gives an indication of the scale of the village in Barra da Tijuca (Photo: Brasil2016.gov.br/André Motta)

High security

In June an imposing security fence will be installed around the site. About 500 police officers will sweep the entire area in July, inspecting all nooks and crannies from the basements of buildings to the insides of wardrobes. "Everyone who enters the village will need to go through an X-ray scanner," Cilenti says. "Even athletes' bags will be checked."
On 18 July the first officials from the national delegations will start checking in. On 24 July, the first athletes will arrive in their new home.
Cilenti is confident that the village is a place where great memories will be made, memories that will last a lifetime.
"Athletes will take home with them the memories of the warm spirit of the employees and volunteers in the village. There wasn't such an atmosphere at London or Beijing because of cultural reasons. Here that warmth comes easily to people. And it doesn't cost a thing."
The village will be a place of comfort and conviviality (Photo: Rio 2016)
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