The Olympic Village that has mushroomed over 65 acres of the University of Southern California (there is also one at UCLA plus a mini-version at UC Santa Barbara) is one place where the security factor at these Games really hits home.
Police, campus guards, and volunteers form a human chain around the entrance. You get accredited for a 45-minute press tour by showing your credentials and having your name checked off a list sent over earlier from press headquarters,.
Next you go through a security area equipped with the same type X-ray machine and electronic doorway entrance used at major airports. Finally you exchange your press badge for a visitor's pass only slightly smaller than an automobile's number plate, hang this bulky piece of plastic on a chain around your neck, and are ready to go.
The USC campus is a beautiful one, with green grass, well-kept flower beds, trees you would expect to see only on a millionaire's estate, and so many fountains you wish you had counted them.
Our guide had a sense of humor, anticipated most questions, and was extremely friendly. But if he recognized track and field matinee idol Carl Lewis jogging by, he kept it to himself - probably on orders. Interviews can be arranged with most athletes, but stopping one on the run is not considered good journalistic form here.
There are four main areas in the Village where athletes can work out, including two fields with running tracks. There is also a building for gymnasts and three tennis courts that have been tented and matted for use by the wrestling fraternity.
You are welcome to speak with the athletes through the chain-link fences that keep onlookers at a distance - that is, if you can convince someone working out to stop and chat. But all buildings are off-limits to the press except one disco center, which is empty during the day.
This disco is in a new facility built for the use of students taking television, filming, and movie-making courses. Its decor has been temporarily turned into a psychedelic nightclub that includes a tri-level look, three of the wildest separate floor patterns you've ever seen, and a stage big enough to hold 10 or 15 musicians.
This is Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and the keeper of this disco, a former nightclub operator, seemed proud to say that most of the conversion had been paid for by various big-name entertainers.
The disco, one of several entertainment centers, opens at 8 p.m. and is still rocking at midnight. The Egyptians are the first to arrive and the last to leave , he said, but the French are the best dancers.
The entrance to Main Street is a lot like entering Disneyland, minus the commercial properties. Banners, flags, and other decorations help get you into an amusement park mood. The athletes seem to travel in groups, their countries' names either on the front of their T-shirts or the back of their sweat suits, as they move about in what really amounts to a small city complete with a bank, a hairdresser, movie theater, shopping mall, etc.
Food is never a problem at any of the three Villages. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus change every day. A typical meal offers a choice of several juices, half-a-dozen different fruits and cereals, plus soup, eggs, bacon, steak, fish, and a wide variety of baked goods. And that's just breakfast!
Lunches and dinners are equally impressive, there's a supplemental cheese and salad bar during all dining hours, and if all this still isn't enough to satisfy an athlete's appetite, hamburgers, sandwiches, steaks, omelettes, and snacks are available 24 hours a day.
The other main Village, at UCLA, is similar in scope to this one, while the one at Santa Barbara (for athletes competing in the rowing, kayaking, and canoeing events on Lake Casitas) provides the same services on a smaller scale.