Village people

Even celebrities can get a little star-struck when they meet their sporting heroes in the flesh!

Jonelle with tennis superstar Rafael Nadal
Jonelle with tennis superstar Rafael Nadal

People-watching and celebrity-spotting have been highlights for the New Zealand eventing team’s stay at the Olympic Village so far.

Jonelle Price is buzzing about it. “The Olympic Village is amazing. All you need to do is host all those athletes in one area and it is an incredible experience. I think it is certainly why you have to stay in the village, even if you have to travel a little bit further each day [to get to the venue] it is well worth it. The travel has been very good for us from day one, we have had no problems whatsoever.”

The rest of the eventing team was impressed with Jonelle’s score in getting a selfie with tennis superstar Rafael Nadal. Her male colleagues all told me about it, perhaps secretly jealous they didn’t jump in for a photo as well. Jock thought it was “cool” to see Nadal. “Jonelle snuck in for a photo. I’m not really a tennis fan but he is a bit of a legend.” Tim reckons that Jonelle’s “jaw dropped” when she saw Nadal, but it looked in place in her photo on her personal Facebook page. Jonelle has given us permission to use it here, and pointed out that she heard from friends at home the photo had appeared on TV news last night, despite it being a private post.

“Meeting Nadal was definitely a highlight” she said.

Julie Brougham just flew in with her horse Vom Feinsten in the early hours of the morning and while she had checked into the Olympic village, she hadn’t had a chance to experience it yet. Some much-needed sleep is next on the agenda rather than exploring.

The eventing team, having been here a few days now, is relishing their opportunity to mingle with the world’s best athletes. Clarke Johnstone is obviously having a great time. “There are so many people, it is just amazing. Very different shapes and sizes and ages. Its just an awesome experience really.”

Tim Price was also very impressed with his first Olympic experience. “It’s pretty cool, we are in all sorts of company. We are sitting there at say 7.30 in the morning having a bite to eat and some God-like creature walks past. I’m talking about sporting prowess of course. It’s an amazing place.”  While he was mighty impressed with his wife getting the photo with Nadal, Tim joking-but-probably-true, said the standouts stars for him were the “Slovakian female beach volleyball players.”  He was also impressed with Mo Farah, the British long distance runner and gold medallist in the 5000m and 10,000m in 2012. “He’s got something about him. He’s got a crowd wherever he goes and it was cool to see him.”

Jock adds: “It’s amazing to see all the athletes walking around. It’s such a good place for people-watching. You can sit down and get some food and watch them all. It’s a great place to be, it’s very relaxed and very interesting.”

Sir Mark did a bit of his own celebrity spotting, commenting that he had seen the “English diver who is quite famous; Tom Daley.” Tom, at just 18 then, was the youngest member of the British team at the London Olympics, winning a bronze medal. He has gone on to host his own TV programme in the UK and is now back to try to win some more medals.

Of course Sir Mark himself is a celebrity in the village but was downplaying it, saying only a few had come to him for autographs. He also confirmed that, unlike in 2012, no-one so far had questioned whether he should be at the village or using the athlete services. He had, however, taken some precautions. “I got a haircut before I came.” Last time the hairdresser told him that the free haircuts were only for athletes!

While he wasn’t that impressed with the food he had so far, he had not taken advantage of the free McDonalds on offer. “I don’t eat MacDonalds!”

See, you don’t get to still be riding so well at 60 on a diet of McD’s!