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4 Aug 2021 20:20
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  •   Home > News > International

    Patty Mills and Cate Campbell say an Australian team spirit is being fostered in the Tokyo Olympics athletes' village

    The Australian Olympic team gather to watch the Matildas stand behind an Indigenous flag and launch their campaign, and flag-bearer Patty Mills says the village already feels like home.

    The Australian Olympic team came together in the athletes' village to watch the Matildas take on New Zealand in their opening match on Wednesday, as the Matildas gave their own display of unity — linking arms and displaying the Aboriginal flag in a stand against racism. 

    The International Olympic Committee's relaxation of the rules against protesting was put to the test with Australia's opponents, New Zealand, opting to take a knee in their own anti-racism gesture.

    Football Australia and the Australian Olympic Committee were aware of the Matildas plans and fully supported them.

    The women's football team has two Indigenous players – Kyah Simon and goalkeeper Lydia Williams.

    Four-time Olympic basketball Patty Mills said being part of the "greater" Australian team watching the Matildas notch a first-up victory was special.

    "It was good to sit last night amongst the greater Australian team watching the Matildas come up with a good win, and I think that's what it's all about," Mills said.

    "Soaking it all in, finding that time to appreciate where we are … without losing the mindset and the reason as to why we're here —  to achieve a gold medal."

    Mills says the Games are unique given the strict protocols around COVID-19, but coming into the village is "one of those things that's hard to describe".

    "What a beautiful way to enter the village and to see everyone and be around everyone again," he said.

    "Coming into the village, the first thing that we all talked about is that, for the majority of us, we all live away from home, away from Australia.

    "[The village] is our connection to our home so that's a really good feeling to hear accents again, be around Australian things again, whether its snacks or those little things you forget about — commercials, Farmer Wants a Wife, stuff like that."

    Swimmer Cate Campbell, also a four- time Olympian, said it has been "wonderful" to be back in the village after 18 months of "so much uncertainty and so much change".

    "It's funny how quickly we've settled into village life and as Patty said, getting into the Australian headquarters was like coming home," Campbell said.

    "I immediately fell straight back into the old patterns — it's strange, I even recognised the village smell.

    "The beds have this strange smell and when I put my head down on the pillow on that first night, I was like 'I've done this before, I've been here before, everything is going to be okay.'"

    Indigenous artwork and flags are featured as part of the cultural fit out in the Australian team headquarters at the village, something Mills says struck him as soon as he arrived.

    "Entering the village a couple of days ago and just being able to see how much Indigenous artwork has been combined throughout our Australian HQ and the flags at the bottom of the stairs, its definitely one of those things that gave me chills just to see how much it was incorporated throughout our entire team," Mills said.

    "It's something that is very unifying, as the Olympic Games is."

    Mills said the impact had also been felt by non-Indigenous members of the team, and he felt proud to share that with the broader team.

    "I think this is what it's all about.

    "We've definitely come a long way in Australian sport and it's special."

    Unity within the Australian team is at an all-time high as the strict COVID protocols have prevented teams mixing with those from other nations.

    Mills said the impact was noticeable.

    "Just coming down this morning and going to grab a coffee and seeing how many Australian athletes were just kind of starting the day with each other, and the mixture of sports outside having those morning conversations, it was really cool to see the camaraderie that the greater team is having.

    "I think that will pay big dividends in the long run, in terms of individual and team sports, it just really adds to that Aussie spirit."

    With athletes having to arrive in the village in a staggered start, most of the 500-strong team will not be able to march in Friday's opening ceremony.

    It is expected that around 50 athletes and half-a-dozen officials would join the event with Mills and Campbell leading the team out as national flagbearers.

    © 2021 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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