A look inside the Olympic village

Hockey player Gigi Marvin, of the USA, plays Wii tennis at the athletes' village in Vancouver on Tuesday Feb. 9, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

VANCOUVER - In the movie "The Truman Show," Jim Carrey's character lives in a pristine world where everyone is well cared for, friendly and serene.

It's an artificial community sealed off from the harshness of the real world outside. That's the athletes' village in Vancouver at the 2010 Olympic Games.

If they didn't have to go out and compete for the entertainment for those in the real world, the 3,000 athletes who will live there during the Olympic and Paralympics would never have to leave.

They're offered a vast array of food 24 hours a day in the cavernous dining tent that spans three NHL-sized rinks. They can choose from a grill, Asian counter, continental menu, a bakery and deli, or the ubiquitous McDonald's, a primary sponsor of the Olympics.

They'll have dental work done, their eyesight checked, prescriptions filled and any medical ailment tended to in the polyclinic, which is a mini-hospital, around the clock. The clinic is equipped to perform magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on injured limbs or CT scans on brain injuries.

Smiling concierges who speak several languages arrange transportation, help athletes with laundry and provide clean towels to take to the fitness centre. Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindu and Muslims are catered to in the multi-faith centre, although any religion is welcome.

They don't have to go out for entertainment as different acts perform nightly in The Living Room, which is the social hotspot at the centre of the village. Pool tables and video games from "Wii Fit" to "Guitar Hero" keep them occupied there. A digital graffiti board gives them an artistic outlet.

The only thing missing? Alcohol. The Living Room is a dry lounge. Once the athletes are finished competing and feel like cutting loose, they'll probably have to venture outside the village for a drink

“I have a feeling they're going keep it alcohol-free out of respect for all the other athletes still competing,” said Canadian short-track speed skating coach Jon Cavar during a game of pool Tuesday.

While The Living Room is equipped with wireless capability for their laptops, an Internet cafe provides a quieter environment for communication with friends and family at home. A DVD library means nobody has to make a run to the video store.

While Truman Burbank couldn't see beyond his bubble, the outside world looks stunning from the athletes' village that butts up against False Creek.

Those who are lucky enough to have balconies on the north side of their residence have B.C. Place, site of the Friday's opening ceremonies, and the skyline of Vancouver just across the water with the mountains as a backdrop.

“It's like a little Pleasantville, pretty much,” U.S. women's hockey team captain Natalie Darwitz said. “You walk into your rooms and you smell fresh paint.

“Everyone in the blue coats, yesterday there was probably five of them to every one athlete because there's so many of them and everyone is so helpful. It's clean. Look how clean it is. You just feel it's a little community with a bunch of athletes.”

The Canadian team lives in two towers in a prime location on the northwest corner of the village. The Maple Leaf hangs from nearly every balcony and a life-sized red-and-white moose from Toronto's failed bid for the 2008 Summer Games just beyond the front doors stamps it as Canada's turf.

Most of the Canadians competing in events in Vancouver will stay in the village, although some of the long-track speedskaters will retreat to apartments they've rented when training at the Oval in Richmond.

Not surprisingly, two hockey nets and stacks of hockey sticks are just inside the door for impromptu street hockey games. The short-track speed skating team and 2002 women's hockey team coach Daniele Sauvageau did so earlier this week.

Canada's neighbours across the street are the French, Hungarians and Australians. The latter insist draping a two-storey boxing kangaroo flag on their residence in defiance of the International Olympic Committee's request they fly only their official national flag.

Inside Canada's quarters, a wellness centre gives them space to chill out on yoga mats in a heavily curtained space. If they want further isolation, there's a separate meditation room with a fireplace.

The Canadian team has their own health centre for massage, acupuncture and medical treatment. An orthopedic surgeon is on hand. Cold and hot tubs just outside the door flush toxins from their bodies and also offer more views of the city.

“It's probably, no not probably, it is the best village that the Olympics ever had, period,” declared freestyle skier Alex Bilodeau of Rosemere, Que. “We have nothing to worry about. Everthing is there for us. Everything is taken care of.

“In the morning we want to try and sleep as late as we can because we're a night event, but at six we're up and 'let's go for breakfast.'”

The living quarters are simple and compact condominiums, but decorated tastefully with beige paint and wood flooring. The units have small kitchenettes and living rooms. The beds are wide singles and the bathroom is a standard four-piece.

In a nod to the green movement, each of the 23 residence tower features solar cells on top and draw heat from wastewater pipes running below the building.

But what makes the Vancouver athletes' village truly spectacular is its location. While the Vancouver organizing committee contributed $30 million to the billion-dollar project, the City of Vancouver paid for the rest.

The city will retain 250 of the 1,100 units for social housing, but the remainder will be sold on the open market to recoup costs.

If real estate is all about location, location, location, then none of the athletes could afford to live in the village after they leave it. Well, perhaps if they won a gold medal.