Work in Sports
By Luba Vangelova, Special to CNNSI.com
You've practiced your quadruple, inside-out, pretzel-position vault dismount for four years. You've dieted, pushed your body to the limit, and overcome adversities that would make an NBC human-interest-feature producer salivate. And finally you've competed your guts out for your country at the Olympics. What next? You party, of course.
Asked on Thursday if the swimmers had been celebrating non-stop since their meet ended last weekend, Lenny Krayzelburg said, "Pretty much."
He was one of dozens of medal winners who attended the last of three Sports Illustrated parties for athletes and corporate types. The scene inside the cavernous temporary structure in the Royal Botanic Gardens, just across from the Opera House, resembled that of any other lively club. Except that roving through the venue -- between the on-fire bar counter and the two dancers in frill-necked lizard bodysuits gyrating atop columns -- were a bevy of tall, spectacularly toned women and men. The ten or so women who climbed the stage and joyfully sang along to "We Are Family" just happened to be members of the U.S. women's softball team, proudly wearing their gold medals around their necks.
Then there was bimbo magnet Prince Albert of Monaco, decked out in a navy (not royal) blue blazer and regally bopping his head to the music. When not thus engaged, he patiently posed for photographs, as did many of the better known athletes. Another favorite fan photo-op involved borrowing a winner's gold medal and posing victoriously.
The lights finally came on just before 3 a.m., signaling it was time for the die-hards to go ... not back to the Olympic Village, but to a nightclub on fashionable Oxford Street. No sleep for the wicked or for these wired Olympians.
Forgot your party invitation? No problem, if you're an athlete. "You can just show up anywhere with your [Olympic] ID and get in," Krayzelburg said. A favorite party haunt for athletes, business tycoons and other VIP card holders has been the Murdoch media clan's private club, which has booked INXS and other big-name performers.
Of course, not everyone has hit the party circuit yet; some athletes are still competing. Olympic Village organizers have tried to minimize conflicts by imposing strict noise rules and also by housing athletes according to their competition schedule. You don't want a trashed long jumper staggering into your dorm room if you're still waiting to compete in the men's marathon, for example.
The spectators, on the other hand, have been partying non-stop since the Games began. Every night, thousands of fans sporting temporary flag tattoos and draped in their national colors have thronged to Darling Harbour, site of several competition venues, plus many more pin trading tents, free concert stages, clubs and restaurants. An aerial photo taken at 3 a.m. mid-way through the Olympics showed the harbor promenades packed with people eager to soak in the atmosphere.
It must be said that Australians are preternaturally prepared to party even under normal circumstances: official state and regional holidays include such dubious observances as Picnic Day, Recreation Day and Regatta Day. Needless to say, the Olympics trumps them all.
So on Sunday, when the last marathoner enters the stadium, what is being billed as the biggest party in Australia's history will commence. By a marvelous coincidence (or not), the next day is an official holiday: Labour Day. Hey, partying can be hard work too.