Olympic Village brimming with love for Valentine's Day
Parties, close quarters help heighten the mood
Maybe it’s the mountains. Maybe it’s the fear of a terrorist strike. But love is in the Sochi air this Valentine’s Day.
What do you expect when you ram beautiful, young and fit athletes into a confined space, and allow their emotional highs and lows to be released in a fit of competition. Oh yes, the athlete’s village is a physical place —if you catch my drift.
“It’s not all one-night stands," former Olympian David Ford explains. “There’s lots of relationships that come out of the Olympics.”
And he should know. The former Olympic whitewater kayaker is married to Kelly VanderBeek, a retired superstar alpine skier. He’s in Sochi now, looking after their three-month old son, Cooper, while Kelly works as a commentator for CBC.
“When you have 13,000 athletes who spend a good amount of their time crafting their body, if there's a body type you're in to, it's going to be there.”
There have long been questions about hooking up in the athletes' village. Russian media says 100,000 condoms have been distributed for use by athletes and others during the Games (which last less than three weeks!) There’s a veritable army of volunteers here, too, many of them young, experiencing an adventure and living in close quarters.
And the athletes' village is both a safe-haven and a roller-coaster. Only athletes, coaches and officials are admitted into the vast complex, so competitors can find quiet away from prying eyes. Outside of the Olympics, they rarely get to interact with the high performers from other sports. The Games provides a platform.
For the athletes, there’s also a new tool. For those seeking to make a connection without a single word — there’s an app for that!
"Tinder in the Olympic Village is next level," snowboard slopestyle gold medallist Jamie Anderson told Us Weekly. "It’s all athletes. It’s hilarious. There are some cuties.”
The app allows a user to broadcast their first name and five randomly-selected photos from Facebook to other nearby users. It began recently at American colleges, and now has 60 per cent of users checking it daily.
Canada House planning Valentine's party
There are always rumours of flings emanating from the athletes' village, that cauldron of hormones and adrenaline. And with good reason. Canada’s most famous couple here are speedskating duo Charles Hamelin and Marianne St-Gelais. “He’s an athlete, which is important for me, and he has a beard!,” she told me with a smile.
Alcohol can often be the grease on the way to the bedroom, but the athletes' village is officially dry. To be honest, more than the occasional soft drink can makes it to the village containing something other than a soft drink. Then there are the parties. Auto makers, national houses (the Dutch are famous) and sports magazines hold tremendous, eye-popping epic parties outside the Olympic grounds. Any medal is your ticket. Knowing someone is nearly as good.
Canada House, inside the Olympic Park, is planning a Valentine’s party but it won’t likely be as crazy at the event put on by a windsurfing manufacturer during the Sydney Olympics. As medal winners entered the party, women wearing only blue body paint reportedly emerged. At least one of those medallists ended up with with a lot of that paint on himself.
Finally, there’s one other possible couple here worth noting. Alena Kabaeva, who competed as a gymnast in both Athens and Sydney, is rumoured to be the girlfriend of a certain Russian with Olympic ambitions, Vladimir Putin.