|Hosts: birmingham Appointment: July 28 to August 8|
|Cover: Watch live on BBC TV with additional streams on BBC iPlayer, Red Button, BBC Sport website and BBC Sport mobile app|
Some already knew and had faced disappointment. But others were hearing the bad news for the first time.
“Four different villages? No, sure not…” said an incredulous athlete when told that the Commonwealth Games competitors would be spread across several different residences over the next two weeks.
Partly due to the sprawling nature of the venues and partly for cost reasons, there will not be a single Athletes’ Village for the Birmingham event.
A large contingent will be housed at the city’s university, but boxers, weightlifters, table tennis players and badmintonists, among others, will be almost 10 miles east at the National Exhibition Centre, parked by the ring road and the airport.
Another batch – rugby players, wrestlers, judokas and bowlers – will be around 20 miles away in Warwick, while the cyclists will be in London, where they will compete at Olympic Park.
“In a way, it’s a good thing we’re out there, because it keeps our heads on,” two-time Olympic medalist Jack Carlin said. “Don’t get me wrong, I would much rather be in the village, but we have a busy few weeks ahead of us.
So what’s the village like, Jack? “Oh come on mate, I can’t tell you that. Not with a camera on me anyway…”
“You may find yourself overwhelmed by village life”
It would probably be fair to infer that the Paisley sprinter had a good right kick to the ball after the competition in Tokyo, despite the Covid constraints in the village.
Judoka Sarah Adlington coyly confirms that the “village experience was really good” in Japan as well, checking himself out before divulging incriminating details. And long distance runner Eilish McColgan admits changing his flight so he could get to his first closing ceremony and experience all the capers that come with it.
But the scale of an Olympic Village dwarfs anything Commonwealths can offer, even amid the worst pandemic restrictions.
“It’s another world”, swimmer Ross Murdoch said. “When you see the numbers written down, it doesn’t really make sense, but when you see 30 skyscrapers full of athletes…in Rio, they could fit three or four 747 jets in the dining room. That’s colossal.”
McColgan adds: “London was my first real experience and I was bowled over by it. It was so much bigger than I imagined. There were post offices, banks, nail salons. was a city within four walls.
“You can end up being distracted. I mean, you could have sushi at 4 a.m. if you wanted it.”
Free 24-hour food
Ask almost any former villager and they’ll tell you about the food hall.
For some, like heavyweight Adlington, the ability to “refuel” around the clock is almost too good to be true. Others need to be wiser. After all, these are athletes with potentially the greatest moment of their careers looming.
Double badminton medalist Kirsty Gilmour, who has competed in three Commonwealths as well as the Olympics, plays a little game with every meal.
“It’s called ‘what sport do they do?’ and it’s just me looking at people’s plates and guessing,” she says. to be a marathon runner.”
But, while Gilmour and the shooter Seonaid McIntosh confess to people watching, wheelchair athlete Sammi Kinghorn has his eyes fixed on something else.
“You go around looking for bad things you can eat as soon as you’ve run,” she says conspiratorially.
“I remember at the Paralympic Games there was a McDonald’s, which was free… free! It’s always quite sad when you come out and have to pay for your food again. And normally there’s also a little bar.”
“If people want a party, we swimmers get a call”
Ah yes, alcohol. Pour that into an already heady mix of athletes in their prime, away from their usual spartan diet, out of the public eye and full of energy and it’s no wonder all sorts of things ensue.
Stories of huge supplies of condoms needing to be replenished quickly and contestants “making new friends” from around the world are at the heart of these events. And this is sometimes even before the start of the sport itself.
The withered look worn by Team Scotland’s chef de mission, Elinor Middlemiss, when asked how she would handle everything that happens in the village could neutralize even the most emboldened athlete – but not all are not so easily intimidated.
“You hear the rumors about who’s the craziest…and the swimmers are always the ones that get mentioned,” McIntosh said.
“Yeah, swimmers, definitely,” confirms Kinghorn.
“If people want to party, us swimmers usually get a call…” says former Commonwealth champion Ross Murdoch.
As a mitigation, it’s worth pointing out that their sport traditionally begins at the very start of these Games, so athletes tend to have time after the event to make the most of their surroundings.
And, for Murdoch, a veteran of the Games, it’s not just about picking on him or “not doing anything right”, as he euphemistically puts it.
“Nobody breaks the rules… well, maybe they’re a little out of shape sometimes, but that’s part of the fun,” he says. “And, in fact, some of my fondest memories in the Gold Coast were of us all watching the dive team. We would cheer them on and then go to the pub during breaks, then head back out.
“These experiences away from the competition often become the ones you remember. I forget what happened during the six days of competition…it was the six days after that that meant the most and really brought us together as a team, as a family.”
hammer thrower mark dry recognize this feeling. And that’s why he describes the absence of a single village in Birmingham as a source of “sadness”.
“It’s an amazing place,” he adds. “You’re surrounded by buddies from all over the world in all the other sports and it’s like being in one big family. The buzz that Glasgow had in the city in 2014 is what the village feels all the time.
“We will only be one group in Birmingham, just as there was only one in Gold Coast and one in Glasgow. It’s a special thing to be part of and that’s why I’m determined to make the most of it.”