Olympics: Team S'pore check into 'little town of our own' at Tokyo Games Village

SINGAPORE – Views of Tokyo Bay greeted Team Singapore’s athletes as they gradually filed into the Games Village, adding to the hustle and bustle just days ahead of the opening ceremony of the July 23 to Aug 8 Olympics.

Table tennis player Feng Tianwei and her teammates moved in on Sunday (July 18) from their training camp in Shimada, joining fencer Amita Berthier, equestrian Caroline Chew, and swimmers Joseph Schooling, Quah Zheng Wen and Quah Ting Wen.

Set to become only the third Singaporean to compete in four Olympics, Feng, 34, said she was mostly pleased with what she saw at the village.

“The vibes are pretty good. At meals, there was a good spread of international cuisine which we could take ourselves,” she told The Straits Times.

“The room is simple with a bed, desk and chairs. While there are no daily necessities provided like at Rio 2016, and we had to bring our own, it was generally cleaner than it was in Brazil. There is also a gym and an area where we can do our laundry.”

The entire facility spans 44 hectares and reportedly cost the Tokyo government 54 billion yen (S$665.8 million), including road works and other infrastructure.

There are around 3,800 residential units with 26,000 beds for Olympic (18,000) and Paralympic (8,000) athletes. The recyclable bed frames are made of cardboard and the village will be converted into a residential neighbourhood after the Games.

Earlier, British weightlifter Zoe Smith said she felt like a “prisoner” as there were restrictions to their movement, which included a designated escorted walking time between 7am and 10am.

This was even before two footballers and one official from South Africa tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving at the village.

While there were no such instructions for the Singaporeans yet, paddler Clarence Chew, 25, said his team are playing it safe. He added: “So far, I have been only to my room and the cafeteria. We are limiting our movements because of the preventive measures.”

With time on his hands, he has enjoyed rummaging through his “awesome” goodie bag, which included an Olympic edition of the Samsung S21 mobile phone, Galaxy Buds Pro earphones and a water bottle.

Caroline, who arrived in Tokyo from England on July 12, was also able to get a run out at the competition venue at Equestrian Park, which she described as “among the best in the world”. The 29-year-old said of the village: “I’ve been avoiding crowded indoor areas such as the gym, but it’s spacious enough for outdoor runs and there are pleasant waterfront green areas for walks.

“Most importantly the Tokyo 2020 volunteers have all been superbly friendly and helpful, which makes a huge difference and creates a really nice and welcoming atmosphere.”

The section of the Olympic Village housing the Singapore contingent. Food and accommodation at the Tokyo Olympics Games Village. PHOTOS: AMITA BERTHIER, YU MENG YU / FACEBOOK

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Berthier, who is making her debut, added: “It does not feel restrictive at all. We still get the chance to have meals with others and bump into someone you might know, we just need to be mindful of social distancing.”

The 20-year-old made a quick round of the village for some snaps and noted the “spacious village, interesting cultural booths, and amenities like hair salon and nail spa”, although she has not fully explored the area due to a long flight from the United States on Saturday.

While their stay will be shorter than usual as athletes must check out of the village no more than 48 hours after their last event, Berthier plans to soak it all in.

She said: “It is like being in a little town of our own and I am happy to be here. It is nice to see all other Olympians sauntering about, it makes it all very real.”

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