Having heard horror stories of the village from our luxurious holding camp in Doha, my first impressions of the Delhi athletes’ village were nowhere near as bad as I’d thought. Yes, the beds were rock hard, but the apartments were spacious and air-conditioned, and not lacking in decoration (particularly once 8 girls had left their mark!). A Games has a much friendlier atmosphere than a normal aquatics competition, and it is really fun to mingle with all the different sports teams around the village and in the (massive) cafeteria (more on that later…).
I’d be hard pushed to give you a glowing report of the swimming facilities. The training pool at the village was closed for the first few days due to some sort of contamination issue, so the swimmers had to get used to the 40 minute bus journey to the pool (and endless queues to get through the security checkpoint) to train. Looking around on the way to the aquatics centre, the vast gap between the rich and the poor – which we were sheltered from in the village – was clearly evident. The pool itself did the job, though as the competition started there were questions as to the cleanliness around the aquatic centre, as a large number of athletes became ill.
When we did get a chance to train at the village pool, I remember a crowd gathering near the village entrance to see Prince Charles and Camilla arrive to take a look around. I had a good chat with a slightly familiar-looking posh man who rocked up a bit later. Someone let me know after he left that I’d been standing there clutching my kick board talking to Prince Andrew! I have no idea what we talked about but I’m fairly sure I asked him if he’d just seen Prince Charles arrive…
Although there were some great touches in the village – for example, each nation had a tree in the village with gold, silver and bronze birds to represent their medal tally – I will always think of this as the Games that might have been. The village could have been incredible: there were spaces for beautiful gardens and water features that were left bare and empty as the organisers had run out of time to finish them.
My own hopes for a good performance were shattered by severe food poisoning the night before my race, and I spent the majority of the swimming in our apartment, and the rest tentatively eating nothing but porridge. Not exactly what you put all those hours of training in for. Those who made their way out of the village fared better despite less than ideal conditions, and I will always remember watching Jazz Carlin and Michael Jamieson winning what must have been their first individual international medals, and Hannah Miley finally getting her hands on that Commonwealth gold.
Although the Delhi experience wasn’t an overwhelmingly positive one for me, I still have great memories of being part of a major sporting event and a fantastic team. I have every confidence that Glasgow 2014 will be memorable for all the right reasons!