Roger Black: Village life is a social swirl with little sleep

Inside an athlete's mind...

In the days before the track-and-field programme started at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, I didn't see Michael Johnson, the No 1 contender in my event, the 400m. There was never any chance of bumping into Michael in the athletes' village because he didn't stay there.

Michael had a big burden of expectation on his shoulders at those Olympics, so he very much kept himself to himself. I have no problem with that. A lot of athletes like to do that. It's not uncommon.

What matters is that you do what's right for you. Some people stay out of the village. Others love being there.

Daley Thompson loved the village. He loved being one of the boys, having a banter. He thrived in that environment.

The village is an environment you can thrive in, but it can be a distraction. You are surrounded by athletes from all over the world, from different sports. There's food on tap. There's entertainment on tap.

It's noisy. There's a lot of nervous energy in there. Some people excel in that environment. Others find it very difficult.

I enjoyed it. I was lucky. I had my friends with me, so it was normal. I had Kriss Akabusi with me and Jon Ridgeon. These were close friends of mine, so it was fun.

But if you don't know many people, it can be different. I used to share with Kriss and he snored like a trooper. But the reality is when you get into the Olympic village you're not going to get a lot of great sleep. It's not a great environment for sleep, I don't think. You have to deal with it and adapt to it.

I think the ones who deal with it are the ones who know that it's going to be different. They just get on with it. And that's part of the game. Yeah, it's a strange environment, but you have to make it work for you. You mustn't forget that it's an inspirational place to be too. You're not going to get a great night's sleep but oh my gosh, from the moment you wake up till the moment you do go to sleep you're surrounded by Olympic athletes, people winning medals. You know where you are, you know what you're there to do. And that revs you up. I always enjoyed the village. I never had a problem with it.

I think there's a balance. You do what works for you. If you want to hide, if you want to get yourself away, there'll be ways to do that.

One thing I never did was go to an opening ceremony as an athlete. I never considered it either. The thought of standing around for six hours when you're there to win medals would have not made sense. I would have not been in the vicinity of the stadium anyway at the start of the Games because the athletics always starts later in the Olympic programme.

I remember watching Muhammad Ali light the flame in 1996 sitting at the athletics team holding camp in Tallahassee, Florida, thinking, "Wow, I'm going to be in that stadium in a week's time." It's inspiring but it's pageantry. It's not what the track-and-field athletes are there to do.

I agree with the decision to take the British athletics team out of the country and keep them away from the opening ceremony. The athletics programme doesn't start until Friday. I'm sure home advantage will be a factor at these Games, but being at home at this time for the athletics team would be 100 times more distracting.

You are going to the Games to do a job. You need to stay as focused as possible.

Roger Black will be writing for 'The Independent', 'The Independent on Sunday' and the Evening Standard during the Games and is an ambassador for Scottish Widows, the official pensions and investments provider for the London 2012 Olympic Games. As part of the Lloyds Banking Group, Scottish Widows is proud to be an Official Provider of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas