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A sprawling village in the heart of Rio

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Festooned across a wall inside one of Bermuda's three suites on the seventeenth floor of their apartment block in the Athletes' Village is a Somerset Cricket Club flag.

Much to the chagrin of chef de mission Carlos Lee, a St George's supporter, it has been roughly taped above the plasma television by swimmer Julian Fletcher, who arrived in Rio almost three weeks ago still celebrating his team retaining the Cup Match trophy.

“I keep threatening to take that thing down,” says Lee.

Fletcher has joined fellow swimmer Rebecca Heyliger and sailor Cecilia Wollmann in watching the morning's athletics session being beamed into their living room from the Olympic Stadium.

All three are lounging on colourful Rio 2016 bean bags.

All three along with the rest of the team will be present when Flora Duffy goes in hot pursuit of Bermuda's first Olympic medal in 40 years in today's women's triathlon.

Bermuda's seven athletes – Duffy is staying in an apartment with her family in Copacabana – have been housed in the first of the 31 buildings in the village, which is one of the biggest in the history of the Olympics.

The sprawling complex, costing about $1.5 billion, is located in Barra da Tijuca in the West Zone of Rio and hosts 17,950 athletes and technical staff in 3,604 flats.

Complete with football pitches, tennis courts and seven swimming pools, as well as a large recreation area with video games and tables for pool and table tennis, the village looks mightily impressive.

Controversy has plagued the site, however, particularly during the run-up to the Games, with Australia's team refusing to move in because of exposed wiring, leaking pipes, blocked toilets, unlighted stairwells and other problems.

Lee is the first to admit Bermuda's party have experienced some minor issues and construction hiccups, which have slowly been ironed out.

“There were clearly problems with the apartment buildings at the start of the Games,” says Lee, who represented Bermuda in field hockey at the 1987 Pan Am Games in Indianapolis.

“The air conditioning isn't completely installed in all of the units and we've had to use portable ones, things like that.

“Water pressure in Central and South America is never great and there's a sign in the elevator saying, ‘Don't put paper in the toilet'.

“There's a guy wandering around every morning with a plunger!”

It's been a hectic few weeks for Lee, who will be the last of Bermuda's contingent to leave the village next week.

He doesn't have his own printer let alone an office, although he finally has a desk from where to conduct his duties as the island's cheerleader, counsellor and fixer of all problems.

“I was a little bit disappointed with the structure we found when we first got here,” says Lee, who has attended every one of the events involving Bermuda athletes, usually armed with an impressive-looking camera.

“We don't have any medical space for our physios to do their work, so we've basically had to convert one of the bedrooms.”

It's fair to say Bermuda's four bedrooms and three bathrooms are basic at best, although they are more spacious than the cramped living spaces at last summer's Pan Am Games village in Toronto, where Lee also served as chef de mission.

It's certainly not the type of accommodation you would expect multi-millionaire players from any top football team or basketball franchise to check into when they're on the road.

“The rooms are tiny but the athletes have come to expect that at any major games,” says Lee.

“It's comfortable and the lounge area is pleasant enough. In most cases we're one to a room so it's worked out quite well for the athletes.”

Unsurprisingly, the United States men's basketball team including Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving have chartered a luxury cruise liner, complete with armed guards and seven-foot beds, moored on the Port of Rio.

There is no such special treatment for Usain Bolt, however.

The most famous athlete at the Olympics is staying at the village, although his “superstar” status has afforded him his own room, unlike his Jamaican team-mates who have to share with a colleague.

Bolt is in high demand for selfies wherever he goes in the village and in Rio for that matter.

Tre Houston, the Bermuda sprinter, was quick on his feet to snatch a photograph with his idol after they competed in the 200 metres heats on Tuesday.

Plenty of other household names from the world of sport can be spotted at the village.

Novak Djokovic, the Serbian tennis player, has treated Bermuda's athletes to a training session from the court directly under their balcony, while Sergio García, the Spanish golfer, kindly posed for a picture with Heyliger after she eventually plucked up the courage to ask him.

Among the local delicacies being served up at the village's dining hall are farofa, tapioca and acai, as well as more common cuisine such as black beans, steak and coconut water.

With a floor space of 24,700 metres squared and ten serving “islands” separated by themes, the dishes on offer are more functional than at previous Games but no one seems to be complaining.

“The quality of the food and diversity hasn't been as good as people expected,” Lee adds.

“The fruit and vegetables have been lacking, but it's edible and it's providing the athletes with the sustenance they need to perform.”

In just a few days the Somerset Cricket Club flag will be removed from its wall and packed away in Fletcher's luggage.

Duffy and the rest of Bermuda's contingent are desperately hoping a shiny piece of metal will also be making the journey home.

Talk the talk: athletes conduct interviews for television inside the village
Proud to be Bermudian: Julian Fletcher, right, Rebecca Heyliger, centre, and Cecilia Wollmann sit beneath a Somerset flag in their apartment in the athletes' village

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Published August 20, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 20, 2016 at 12:56 am)

A sprawling village in the heart of Rio

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