A SHORT journey from the centre of Glasgow, a neighbourhood of 700 homes looks like it has just been dropped from space.
In a former run-down area of Dalmarnock, the Commonwealth Games Athletes Village has transformed a landscape the size of 54 football pitches.
In little over a week, 6,500 athletes and team officials from around the globe will descend on this site before the start of the main event on 23 July.
But this weekend 200 people were invited in to help put the facilities through their paces as part of the massive preparations now in full swing ahead of the 20th Commonwealth Games.
Having failed to qualify for any of the sporting events, I jumped at the chance of at least pretending to be an athlete for a few hours to help test the venues for the real thing.
At the Welcome Centre we were greeted with airport-style security. The site is now in lockdown ahead of the teams arriving. The airport vibe continued as we approached check-in, with snake-like lanes leading to the staff handing out keys to the accommodation. Doing my best Usain Bolt impression, I zipped to the front – queuing is not my favourite sport.
Then the moment of truth. Keys in hand we headed to our assigned rooms. Having been told taking pictures of the accommodation for social media was strictly forbidden, so as to keep it a surprise for the athletes, I wondered what would greet us.
Walking down a pretty street of terraced housing, I arrived at my home for the evening. Inside, the immediate impression was that of a posh university halls of residence. Freshly decorated with speckled grey carpet to help hide a multitude of future sins, the scene was set for the different national teams to make their own mark on the properties for a few weeks at least.
The houses are reusing a lot of furniture which featured at the 2012 London Olympics village, so the colourful green bean bags and aquamarine sofas make a reappearance.
Inside my room I found three beds – no single rooms here – so even star names could find themselves yelling at a teammate to stop snoring.
Each bed has a set of lockable drawers to keep all those medals safe, and there were cloth wardrobes for hanging up leotards and skimpy shorts.
A nice touch were the pictures drawn by local schoolchildren to welcome athletes. By my bed was a four-year-old’s not inaccurate interpretation of a weightlifter wearing the aforementioned skimpy shorts.
But there was little time to linger as we were ushered out to view other areas. First there was the impressive polyclinic, providing emergency medical care and services such as physiotherapy, dental care and a pharmacy.
Showing us round, medical services manager Liz Mendl said they were even installing MRI and CT scanners, making the site not too dissimilar to a hi-tech hospital.
Next door was the gym, with much of the equipment you’d find in a standard gym, plus some which looked more suited to a torture chamber.
The International Zone, where teams can mingle with each other and relax, was next on the itinerary. Shops, a salon and tourist information are all set up for athletes to use – if they can tear themselves away from The Ninth Lane bar.
At the evening reception we had our first glimpse of the mammoth dining area, with 2,014 seats (can’t think how they came to that number) and food counters which will serve more than 2,000 menu items.
The helpful catering staff piled our plates high with pizza, pasta, salad, curry and, most importantly of all, a variety of desserts. This may not have been the diet of an athlete, but carrying it to the table was a feat of strength in itself.
A few drinks in the bar followed, before we returned to our rooms to snuggle under the Glasgow 2014 duvets.