Shiny, happy, village people

The Aussies wasted no time in making their mark while Rebecca Adlington's room is already a mess – Tom Peck reports on the big check-in for the world's top athletes

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The Independent Online

It may have taken American hurdler Kerron Clement four hours to get from Heathrow to the Athletes' Village, but news of what awaits the world's sporting finest when they arrive in their temporary home travels a lot faster than an Olympic transfer bus.

With little more than a week to go until the opening ceremony, around 1,300 of the 18,000 athletes and officials that will stay in London's Olympic and Paralympic Athletes' village over the coming month have already arrived and, thanks to Twitter, we have already seen more of it than at any previous Games.

Diver Tom Daley and swimmer Rebecca Adlington are among many who have posted pictures of their rooms – in Adlington's case to apologise for its already unkempt state: "Only been here a few hours and my room is a mess!!!"

Daley, on the other hand, spent some time putting up Olympic bunting and posters. "My room in the Olympic village all decorated :) heading back to Southend now for our pre-camp...back on the 25th :D" he wrote to his 250,000 followers.

In a year's time, when the Qatari government puts East Village – as it will be known under its ownership – on the market, it will look like just another apartment complex. Two-, three- and four-bedroom homes, in tasteful little concrete cuboids, set around little green lawns. But it will forever be infused with the chapter in London's history now writing itself.

The Australians were the first to mark out their territory. The word A-U-S-T-R-A-L-I-A is now spelt out nine storeys high in green and gold flags, amid southern crosses and boxing kangaroos. Across two sides of one thoroughfare one set of towels proclaims "Ozzie! Ozzie! Ozzie!" and another answers "Oi! Oi! Oi!"

At some point Roger Federer is expected to check in to one of these rooms. Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy and the rest of the TeamGB football squad stayed the night on Monday, but yesterday headed off to Middlesbrough for a friendly against Brazil.

Israel and Iran are housed at opposite ends of the village; TeamGB are suitably far away from their Argentine counterparts; and the German contingent have been placed a good distance from the Greeks.

But they needn't worry. Olympic athletes tend to make love not war. The Sydney village ran out of its 70,000 condoms and had to call in 20,000 more. Durex are providing "tens of thousands" this time round.

Even TeamGB Deputy Chef de Mission Sir Clive Woodward was getting in the mood, admitting to i while walking through the entrance: "I've just been checking the beach volleyballers in. Someone's got to do it."

"The Globe" bar and social area has already become a hub. There are pool tables, computer games and movie nights but – with the small matter of gold medals to be won – the bar serves only the produce of its leading soft drinks manufacturer sponsor.

The most sought-after rooms are the ones nearest to the 5,000-seater dining room. At one end, inevitably, is a sizeable McDonalds. Karen Pickering, the former Olympic swimmer, who was involved in deciding who would get the catering contract, said the mood in the athletes' village slowly changes as more and more competitors finish. "The social areas get busier, the queues in the shops get longer. And people stampede towards the McDonalds."

At the Paris "Chariots of Fire" Games in 1924, a number of cabins were built near the stadium to house visiting athletes, but as with so much Olympic symbolism, it was Hitler at the Berlin Games of 1936 that ratcheted up the significance of the Athletes' Village.

The Nazis constructed 145 one- and two-storey apartment buildings, with a theatre, hospital and other amenities. Only ruins remain now, although Jesse Owens' house has been restored.