What would athletes sneak into the Village? Pups -- and a flying squirrel

Anthony Quintano / NBC News

Wrestler Ellis Coleman shows a photo of his beloved flying squirrel, Rocky.


By Sarika Dani and Ian Sager

The Olympic Village has a McDonald's, free broadband Internet and a nail salon, but for some athletes, it doesn’t offer every convenience.  

More than one competitor admitted to TODAY.com that they longed for the creature comforts that only home could provide. While many Olympians spoke highly of the Village’s dining and entertainment facilities, some felt it needed the touch of their four-legged friends.

“You know what, if I had my dog here, Bella, a little Maltese, I would bring [her] in,” said Merrill Moses, the goalkeeper for the U.S. men’s water polo team. “My dog is 2 years old, about 7 pounds. I love her to death.”

Moses isn’t the only Olympian who pines for his pooch. Team USA gymnast Jonathan Horton revealed that he and his wife had recently discussed the possibility of bringing their dog, Harley, to London. “I would love to have a dog running around, be the Village mascot,” he said.

But despite Horton’s desire to reunite with Harley, he and his wife decided to leave their 7-year-old Pomeranian at home.

For wrestler Ellis Coleman – whose acrobatic takedown move transformed him into an Internet hit and earned him the nickname “Flying Squirrel” – the Village lacks two things: his girlfriend and his new pet flying squirrel, Rocky.  

Story: Community raises $14K to send Olympic contender's family to London

Anthony Quintano / NBC News

Wrestler Ellis Coleman puts those muscles to work, showing off his girlfriend, Helen Maroulis.

“She helps keep me grounded,” Coleman said of his girlfriend, Helen Maroulis, who’s here in London already.

As for Rocky, Coleman looked into customs laws, and found that he would not only be banned from the Village, but the entire United Kingdom.

“They wouldn’t let me bring in an animal from outside the country, but I really wanted to bring him to the Village!” he explained.

As for where his flying friend would have stayed, Coleman says he would have kept him close.

“He would have stayed in my pocket, or in his cage."  

Sarika Dani and Ian Sager are TODAY.com’s editors in London. They’d like to sneak into the Olympic Village for the Wi-Fi.

Editor's note: A previous version of the story misidentified the pets owned by Moses and Horton. The dog Harley belongs to Horton and the dog Bella belongs to Moses. 

More from TODAY in London:



Discuss this post

Pets can really help people to deal with stress and these athletes are no doubt feeling quite a bit of stress. Many of them have spent most of their lives working towards this one chance to compete in the Olympics and no doubt they are feeling the pressure. It would be great if they could have their four legged friends their with them, but unfortunately the laws make that extremely difficult if not impossible. There are often long quarantine periods when bringing animals into a country in order to prevent the inadvertent spread of diseases to the indigenous animal population. While these laws may seem extreme, history has shown that there is very good reason for having them. Unfortunately this means that the athletes will have to find other ways to cope without their pets to help them.

  • 2 votes
Reply#1 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 3:01 PM EDT

"...The high price of the tickets brings home the reality that these games are an event primarily for the rich. The top price for a ticket to today’s opening ceremony is £2,012 pounds.

As a result of the cost, hundreds of thousands of tickets for Olympic events, including Olympic football tickets, remain unsold. Rather than reduce the price or give them to sports clubs and other interested parties, capacity at football grounds has instead been reduced by 500,000.

Other examples of the official prices: £300 for some of the athletics finals on August 3 and £725 for the men’s 100 metres final. A 40 percent markup on the black market is common and many other tickets are on sale at dramatically inflated prices, to include the cost of champagne receptions and other corporate treats.

Little wonder that the Telegraph, hardly known for its social sensitivity, warned that workers who have “footed the massive bill” will be angered “if the Olympics were hijacked by the demons of the recession—by the plutocrats whose ilk wrecked the economy and by the politicians who let them do it.”

Global elite descend on East London for Olympics

By Paul Stuart
27 July 2012

The Royal Dock complex, adjacent to London’s financial district at Canary Wharf, is hosting up to one hundred super yachts, including twenty of the world’s most opulent, as the Olympic Games begin.

Its transformation into a Monaco-style marina playground for the super rich is a telling rebuttal to all the official rhetoric about the “peoples’ games.”

East London’s Royal Docks, including the Royal Albert Dock, the Royal Victoria Dock and the King George V Dock, was once a centre of industry and trade employing hundreds of thousands of workers.

The games in general are dominated by the vast global social chasm. Buckingham Palace played host to an Olympic reception on Monday, where Queen Elizabeth and others received the Olympic committee. It is estimated the official functions alone will cost up to £100 million; in addition, numerous unofficial events will be held.

The global elite view staying in a hotel as passé, or “so Beijing” as one newspaper put it.

Accordingly, many have therefore brought their super yachts and will arrive at Olympic events in helicopters or speedboats along the Thames, which connects Windsor Castle and Hampton Court, the Bank of England, Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, and so on. Curator of the National Maritime Museum Robert Blyth made the telling comparison that “Historically, kings and queens would have travelled by river—the roads were rather uncomfortable and dangerous.”

Fully 30 miles of road lanes are reserved for Olympic VIPs and competitors. “Games Lanes” is their official title, but they have been dubbed Zil lanes—after the limousines used by Stalinist apparatchiks in Soviet Russia who travelled in lanes that were reserved for them.

To stray into one will cost a member of the public a £130 fine. In addition 1,300 sets of traffic lights will be changed to facilitate Olympic traffic.

The Olympic organisers and the government have bent over backwards to show sensitivity to the desire of the financial elite to avoid the general public, whose lives are already in a ruinous state in socially deprived areas of London.

As Camilla Storey, an executive for the co-ordinating of Olympic party events put it, “We will have the entire financial industry, everybody from the worlds of business, sport and entertainment, all coming together. That is a unique opportunity. Do these people want to be lost in the hubbub, immersed in the tourist crowds, or do they want to be watching it, waited on hand and foot, from the top of one of the world’s most exclusive yachts?”

The Economic Times wrote that Roman Abramovich’s “sumptuous 1-billion-dollar boat, which is the playground of billionaires, oligarchs and A-list celebs, will be arriving in London on Tuesday. At 557ft, the Russian tycoon’s Eclipse is the largest private yacht in the world. It has two swimming pools, two helipads, a dedicated disco hall, 30 cabins, a cinema, a mini-submarine, and even its own missile defence system.”

Another super yacht moored at the Royal Dock is Ilona, the property of Australian-Israeli billionaire Frank Lowy. Lowy co-founded the shopping mall group Westfield. His yacht is docked a short distance from the company’s new £1.45 billion retail complex that dominates Stratford shopping district, adjacent to the Olympic Park.

The Daily Mirror reported on the arrival of Octopus, owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. It boasts “two helipads, a swimming pool, nightclub, a basketball court, a cinema and two submarines. ... It has a 10-man submarine capable of two-week-long trips under the sea, as well as a smaller remote control-operated sub. ... The aft of the ship also contains hatches that can open to reveal a fully serviced spa, a bar area and access down to the sea to swim or to play with some of the yacht’s jetskis.”

The Mirror also reported “arriving soon will be Allen’s business partner, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, 56, in his super yacht Gogypus. Another set to arrive over the next few days is The Maltese Falcon, owned by Greek millionairess Elena Ambrosiadou, 42.”

According to Time magazine, even these luxury vessels are to be superseded. “To help oligarchs and tax exiles keep pace in 2011, U.K.-based Yacht Island Design has dreamed up the ‘Streets of Monaco,’ a $1.1 billion super yacht modelled on Monte Carlo. ... The four-story liner, which will stretch for more than 500 feet, will include a casino, race track, go-kart circuit, multiple tennis courts, and pools with swim-in Jacuzzi bars. Rather than having decks the ship will have buildings, including a replica of Monaco’s famed Hotel de Paris. The lucky owners will be able to enjoy their champagne kisses and caviar dreams on a helipad, beside waterfalls and in a restaurant with underwater views.”…


    #1.1 - Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:38 AM EDT

    Flying squirrels are easy to hide since they sleep all day in your pocket. I had one once. They are super cute but pretty high maintenance in diet and exercise. Too bad he couldn't bring it. Pets are good de-stressers.

      Reply#2 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 3:24 PM EDT

      Wow! A flying rodent for a pet! What a treat! Urk!

        Reply#3 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:28 PM EDT
        Comment author avatarGrace Scaliavia Facebook


        What kind of a DUMB question is this? Living sequestered for a few weeks--yeah, right, that just "shuts-off" human initiative to "have what's NOT available."

        Even SEX was PRODIGIOUS in Nazi Death camps--there was NO other form of recreation. And the alternative was DEATH.

        Even astronauts have been known to have SEXUAL INTERCOURSE in SPACE.

          Reply#4 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:55 PM EDT

          Don't lie about the astronauts; it's very rude.

            #4.1 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 7:55 PM EDT

            Heh. This article is cute.

              Reply#5 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 6:16 PM EDT

              Most countries require that animals coming into the country be held in quarantine for a specific (it varies by jurisdiction) amount of time, in order to ensure that the animal is not bringing in any illness or parasites that could spread to other animals in the country. If they show symptoms while in quarantine, they're not spreading it.

              Yes, both pets and sex can help to deal with stress (and at the last few Olympics, every athlete has had condoms waiting for them in the quarters in the Village), but they aren't the only ways to relieve stress. One would think that any world-class athlete has learned more than a few relaxation techniques. They'd never be able to compete without them.

                Reply#6 - Thu Jul 26, 2012 7:27 PM EDT
                Comment author avatarAlexandra Sloanvia Facebook

                I have to say that Wrestler Ellis Coleman's pet isn't a flying squirrel or even a rodent. It's a marsupial, and is called a Sugar Glider.

                • 1 vote
                Reply#7 - Fri Jul 27, 2012 8:56 AM EDT
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