DREAM JOB: Spending the Day with Icon Katie Couric

Giving Katie Couric A Tour of the Olympic Athlete Village

As a member of the new media and public relations teams for 4 Games for the U.S. Olympic Committee, I've had the chance to live in Athlete Villages with people from around the world. This is about a day I spent giving Katie Couric a tour of the Village.

by Kaki Flynn // teamusa.org
Good times, good times. Life in the village for the 211 U.S. athletes is great. It has been a well-planned sanctuary for the athletes, a place free of media and the public so that the athletes can focus on competing in one of the pinnacle events of their careers.
I gave Katie Couric, who has been filming the Today Show from the Games, an exclusive tour inside the Athlete Village.
We give you a look at how the athletes have been spending their time between competitions, stopping to pin collect - Couric is a master, although many athletes from other countries that didn't recognize her ignored her pleas for the pins attached to credentials.
Couric also joined myself and some of the members of the U.S. Women's Hockey Team for an impromptu Dance Revolution game in the recreation room.
Athletes can do everything from get a haircut and a manicure to catch a private viewing of some of the top-name bands that have been performing at the medal ceremonies. Best of all, everything is free.

"Everything is really convenient," said moguls skier Ann Battelle. "There are buses to get us everywhere, from each venue to somewhere downtown."
Our House ..
Each country has it's own "house," a set of dorms at the University of Utah divided by each countries security.

What happens if Michelle Kwan wants to go hang out with Canadian figure skaters Jamie Sale and David Pelletier?

Some of the houses require a pass code to get in, such as the U.S. House that has heightened security because of Sept. 11. Others are wide open to the other countries, such as the Canada house that has athletes from other countries flowing in and out of its doors.
There is no decoration on the outside of the houses, but the countries flag can be seen hanging from inside the windows, and the lobbies are full of photos and news reports from that days events, so that the athletes can keep up with each others accomplishments.
The rooms, much like the outside of the dorms, are hardly decorated on the outside, but a few of the athletes have added personal touches on the inside.
For the most part, there is gear piled everywhere in the rooms, with athletes having little time to squeeze in home decorating between training.
Some of the athletes display a sense of humor, such as Jimmy Shea's room that has a skeleton cartoon on the front of the door, or the women's hockey team that has a cartoon drawing of a woman superhero pasted on the door.
Friends Coffee Shop
There is an exclusive club on complex, just for the athletes, but the most popular hang out is the coffee shop.

There is entertainment here as well, whether athletes are up for a drag show or an acoustic guitar performance.

Some of the big-name entertainers stop by here to chat with the athletes, such as Nelly Furtado, who chatted with the Brazilian bobsledders and some of the U.S. women hockey team members.
Natalie Darwitz, one of the rookies on the women's hockey team, ordered a hot chocolate with whipped cream, while her veteran teammates ordered espressos and lattes.
What is the athlete's favorite part of the athlete village? Not the nightclub, which is usually devoid of U.S. athletes, but the dining hall.
"The McDonald's chocolate-chip cookies are the best," said bronze medallist speed skater Jennifer Rodriguez.

Athletes can choose from a wide variety of international cuisine that can be custom-tailored to each athlete. Of course, there is always the Big Mac, with an on-site McDonalds free to the athletes.
While there are different stations for different countries - Asian, Italian, American - the most popular choice for the athletes from all countries are the steak and pasta stations.
"I have a ham-cheese and egg-white omelet with Fruit Loops every morning," said Darwitz. The best part of the dining hall isn't the food, however, it's the people watching.
"It's fun to see famous athletes in the cafeteria, but I would never go up to them and introduce myself," said Battelle.

Hockey players Cammi Granato and Julie Chu both said "people watching" was the number one fun pastime.
"I'm kind of starstruck," said Chu, "so you ask people if you can have a photo with them."
Granato had a chance to see her hockey hero, Wayne Gretzky, walk into the cafeteria. "I was like, oh, my, God!" and gave him a huge hug.
Sarah Hughes, the 16-year old figure skater that shocked the skating world and won a gold, said she likes to go, "to look at the cute boys."
Fun and Games
There are two game rooms, one filled with video games and another with pool tables and board games. The most popular games for the European countries has been the X-Box, with racecar games the most popular and football games like "Madden" the least.
Two athletes duking it out at one of the racecar games that allowed for duel-drivers identified themselves as "professional race car drivers," but looked a lot like members of the U.S. Hockey team.
Chris Thorpe, Clay Ives and Brian Martin were in the pool room, chatting with other athletes and showing them their medals that they had tucked in the pockets of their jeans.
There is also a Cyber-Café next to the game room that lets athletes send video messages to each other. Tim Goebel was in there sending good-luck wishes to the women's hockey team, who he had met earlier.
All the Perks
One of the biggest athlete-exclusives, next to the Roots leather jacket that you see the athletes wearing on the parade stand, is the Coke key chain. The key chain, made in the shape of a mini-Coke bottle that makes the sound of a coke being poured, allows the athletes to get free Cokes out of vending machines around complex and the Olympic venues.
Game Time
Next to the people watching and eating, athletes spend the rest of their time training and shuttling to practices and competitions. Athletes at the U.S. House have access to a full-medical staff that plays a big part in helping the athletes prepare.
There are massage tables set up in the hallways of the dorm.
Jill Bakken, the bobsledder, went and had her calves massaged the night before her bobsled race. It must have helped, because she and partner Vanetta Flowers went on to win the gold in what was considered to be one of the biggest upsets of the games.
Gold-Medal Pin Collector
Even the athletes can't escape the pin-collecting craze. The gold-medal for collecting the little pieces of painted medal goes to one of the coaches for the skeleton team. He started collecting them in 1984, and now enjoys trading pins with teams from other countries.

"I started out just for fun, and now it's a great way to break the ice," said the coach, who has about 200 pins from these games alone. "When I first got to the village, I would see these stoic-looking people that would just open up as soon as you offered them a pin."
That's the Ticket
When athletes are done competing, one of the first things they want to do is get a chance to check out the other sports. Two of the most popular events were the men's and women's hockey team games. The athletes have to sign up for tickets to events, and any extra tickets are divided up, first-come first-serve.
The sign up sheets look like an autograph hunters dream, with winter sports stars like Amy Peterson, Chris Klug and Jeremy Bloom all signed up for tickets.
Night and Day
The difference between the athletes that are done competing and the ones that are deep into training is night and day. The women's hockey team, who didn't finish up until last Thursday, spent their free time in the cafeteria and the game rooms, but for the most part had to stay rested for their demanding game schedule.
"When we have free time in the village, we hang out and watch the live feed of the Games. We've been watching a lot of curling, because that is on the most," said Courtney Kennedy.
The hockey team players are also huge Will & Grace and Friends fans, but since the shows are usually on during their games, they rely on people to tape the shows for them to watch during some of their downtime.
Then there are athletes like Jeremy Bloom, whose moguls event finished early in the Games, leaving him time to play.

His schedule consists of going to the different sports events and the big parties that are thrown for the athletes by the sponsors, like the ultra-exclusive Sports Illustrated parties that have become the top-ticket at the Games.
The biggest party will be after Closing Ceremonies, when the athletes will have a private showing of the entertainers in the Village.

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