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Japanese Olympic swimmers make an impression
REGIMENTED routines, mini-tractors and some eager trips to the Basildon sign have all been on the itinerary for the Japanese Olympic swimming team.
The world-class athletes, who have been staying at the Holiday Inn in Basildon, are “polite”, “friendly” and above all “dedicated”, according to hotel chiefs.
A group of 33 Olympic hopefuls from Japan have been bedding down at the hotel, on the Festival Leisure Park , since they arrived two weeks ago to prepare for the Games.
After training at the £38million Sporting Village, they have now flown to Tenerife for further preparation, while another 12 hopefuls – including gold medal contender Kosuke Kitajima – will arrive in Basildon this weekend, and stay until next Monday.
Daniel Sharpe, operations manager for Holiday Inn, said: “The team has been a pleasure to have. “They are very friendly and polite. We are looking forward to welcoming the rest of the team.
“A lot of our staff have got to know the athletes, and I think will be rooting for them in the Games.
“Our chefs had to prepare special meals for them which were exactly the same every day – same time, same menu.
“They had a bit of sushi when they arrived, but other than that their meals have included a lot of pork, seafood, rice and protein. “They asked for desserts to be made available, but hardly any of the team members ate them.”
Among the elite swimmers set to be welcomed to town next week is breast stroke supremo Kitajima, 29, who is tipped to take Olympic gold.
Nicknamed “Frog King” for his swift, frog-like stroke, Kitajima is a massive celebrity in Japan, and is swamped by fans wherever he goes.
The Olympians stuck to a strict regime during their stay, waking up at 5am, eating breakfast at 6am before heading off to the 50m pool at the Sporting Village across the road at Gloucester Park. After lunch at the hotel, they headed back to the pool for more training before turning in.
Mr Sharpe added: “After dinner, they would be in bed very early. There was no hitting the clubs over at the leisure park.
“While they were with us they only had two rest days.
“One thing they all remarked on was how much they liked the Olympic rings at the Basildon sign – they were a big hit.”
A gala dinner in their honour saw each athlete presented with miniature blue tractor as a welcome gift from the New Holland Tractor Plant, in Cranes Farm Road.
Mr Sharpe added: “They looked a bit baffled at first, as they had no idea why they were all being given tractors. But then it was explained to them about the factory, and they were very appreciative.”
Holiday Inn is the official Olympic hotel chain for London 2012 and the Basildon site will be packed to the rafters with journalists, Olympic officials and athletes over the next six weeks.
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