IN THE SOUVENIR store at the athletes' village last Thursday, a salesman named Vassileos explained that purchasing patterns were changing. "Now, less protein bars," he said, "but more condoms." As the Olympics moved through their second week and more athletes finished their events, the mood in the village grew much livelier. "The problem now is the noise," said Simona Krupeckaite, a Lithuanian cyclist. "The sleeping is not so good."
Dismayed by a first-week medal drought, dozens of athletes from New Zealand gathered in front of their dormitory and broke into a haka dance, a Maori war-chant ritual popularized by the national rugby team. Not all of the activity was so raucous. Scores of athletes milled near the village's main entrance, a pin-trading Mecca. Kazakh boxer Beibut Shumenov was determined to collect a pin from every country. "And I will learn a word in every language," he said before confessing that he was still some 175 languages short. Nearby, infielder Katina Kramos explained that she and the 13 other U.S.born members of the Greek softball team were making a game of their pin quest, which they had dubbed Tour de Village. "Since the first day, each player has been taking a spin around the village on the bus to trade as many pins as possible," she said. "If you draw an empty bus, too bad." At last check, pitcher Sarah Farnworth of Cal State--Long Beach was the team leader with 60 pins.
Lindsay James, a junior-to-be at Cal and Greece's starting leftfielder, had found inspiration in the village--or, more precisely, in her underwear. Her mother, Kristie, had packed 30 pieces of underwear for her, each with a purple index card inside bearing a different inspirational message. "They were hilarious, quirky quotes to make me laugh, because I knew being away from my family would be a struggle," says James, who's eligible for the team because her great-grandfather was a Greek citizen. "But I've gone through them all. Time to do some laundry." --Brian Cazeneuve and Richard Deitsch