Home suite home

ALISON KORN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

A couple of self-described "old" Olympians, recalling sparsely furnished accommodations at previous Games, want to make sure Canadian athletes at the Vancouver Olympics have all the amenities.

Kitchen tables and chairs, area rugs, reading lamps and small fridges are extra comforts not included in Vancouver Olympic athlete accommodations that may now be provided by the network of 3,500 past Canadian Olympians.

"We wanted to do something quiet that was somewhat meaningful, and we didn't want to be front and centre," said Joel Finlay, 63, a 1968 Olympian in rowing. "All you need is for some old fogey to be there and say, 'When I was around I didn't have that nice jacket and all that.' We wanted to make the link (with past athletes), but we didn't want to get in the way."

Finlay, a health policy consultant for KPMG in Vancouver, and Tricia Smith, a lawyer, four-time Olympian and vice-president of the alumni network Olympians Canada, were chatting recently at a spin class about how older Olympians could support the 2010 athletes. The old timers wanted to show support, do something practical and not be a distraction.

And so in consultation with the Canadian Olympic Committee operations staff, the "Home Suite Home" concept was born. For $300, alumni can outfit the athlete accommodation common areas with a small fridge, area rug, lamp, kitchen table and chairs. "Small, homey things," as Finlay puts it. A letter from the donor, wishing the athletes well, will be placed in the accommodation.

Older athletes remember a time when it was distinctly uncomfortable to stay in the Olympic Village. Finlay and his team moved in to Mexico City six weeks early to get used to the altitude. Everyone went stir crazy and would throw water balloons out the windows for fun. Some of his team got sick and the boat under performed.

"We thought about our rooms in the Olympic Villages of years past," recalled Finlay. "I recall an army-type bed and no other furnishings. The walls were bare and the floors concrete. Not the best performance environment."

Of course, the apartments in Vancouver and condos in Whistler are gorgeous and will certainly include basic furnishings. Bedrooms will be totally set up. But the kitchens are unfinished, with blocked-off spaces where fridges and stoves will go when the units are sold after the Games.

It's entirely possible that having one's yogurts or sports drinks handy, or enjoying warmer toes in the morning thanks to a cozy rug, will be intangibles that help athletes feel better and perform better. And even if they don't -- most athletes are used to staying in crappy digs, and these will be way nicer -- it can't hurt.

There are 44 apartments and condos, so the program aims to raise just over $12,000. Anything extra will be spent on the team. The alumni-purchased furniture will be donated to charity after the Games.

"My personal view is if this works out maybe we can make it an ongoing support function for future Games," said Finlay. "Particularly when they're not in their own country, you want them to feel there's a bit of Canada there. I think they're the intangibles."

So, will the extra-warm and welcoming environment extend to other countries? No. That's up to their own national federations. Might want to bring your own mini-fridges, Americans.

General donations to the Olympic Foundation can be made at www.olympicfoundation.ca.

The "Home Suite Home" fundraising by former athletes is at www.olympicfoundation.ca/olympianscanada.

ALISON_KORN@HOTMAIL.COM


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