By Gabrielle Scheder-Bieschin | Oct. 12, 2018, 8:57 p.m. (ET)

The Summer Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 may be 12 days of elite sports competition, but they are also a celebration of youth and culture. When athletes step off the field of play and head back to the Youth Olympic Village, activities abound to take their minds off of their events and engage with other athletes from around the world. Here are seven things the village has that you might not know about.

 

1) Sports

Of course, even though athletes may not technically be competing in the village, their competitive spirit continues no matter where they are, and the Buenos Aires 2018 organizing committee made sure to account for that too.

On any given day, athletes are able to play a wide variety of sports in the village – though few are on the Olympic program. Lawn chess, giant soccer darts and hula hoops are scattered throughout the plaza. Table tennis, played not on a flat table but in a circular tube, is a popular pastime, and the global favorite of soccer is also available.

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Athletes from all across the globe join in for these activities; even when they cannot speak the same language, the language of sport needs no translation. No medals are awarded, but that does not seem to make a difference – every night, cheers of victory ring out throughout the Village.

 

2) Pin Trading

A staple of all Olympic events, pin trading continues its long tradition at the Youth Olympic Village in Buenos Aires.

“When my family friend first told me about the pin trading at Olympic events, I don’t think I understood the magnitude of it,” says Ty Walker, 2014 U.S. Olympic snowboarder and a Young Change-Maker at these Games.

According to the International Association of Olympic Collectors, pins at Olympic events dates back to the first modern Summer Olympic Games in 1896, where they were used to identify athletes, judges and officials. Nowadays, the pins are much more detailed, and seemingly everyone –athletes, coaches and even media – takes part in this unofficial sport.

 

3) Art

Whether it is a giant mural or the sculptures placed between residencies, the village’s blocks of buildings are decorated with art. With the nice weather, most of the common spaces in this village are outside, allowing the art there to be larger than life. After looking at gym equipment all day, the colorful pieces are a nice change of pace.

There are sculptures of the key themes of the Games – including the words “equality” and “passion,” which often double as benches in one green space – along with a sculpture of a Rubik’s Cube and a nine-story mural of a four-headed reptile. As the International Olympic Committee works on its sustainability goals for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, there is also a thought-provoking sculpture of a globe, made out of recycled electronics.

 

4) 3D Photo Opps

These may technically fall under the “art” category but are so cool they deserve their own section.

When walking through the village, athletes cannot avoid strolling past painted pavement. The paintings often appear distorted from a distance, but when viewed from the right angle, they become three-dimensional artwork, making the pavement appear to be have tightropes stretched across a circus tent or pillars rising from the ground. Every few days, artists paint another piece in a new location, leaving the residence area’s gray walkaways an explosion of color.

The paintings have become popular photo spots for athletes and support staff alike – including United States Olympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland.

 

5) Circus

Yes, you read that right. The village’s main plaza turns into a circus training ground on occasion. Between an inflatable runway to practice acrobatics, a juggling station and giant hoops, you would be forgiven if you thought you had walked into a circus training ground rather than the Village of an Olympic event.

Some athletes – such as the gymnasts and divers – definitely have an advantage in their skill sets, but that does not stop others from joining in on the fun.

 

6) Karaoke

The Youth Olympic Games are, ultimately, about celebrating: celebrating sport, culture, and the future. And what better way to top off a celebration than with some karaoke?

Every evening, around 8 p.m., athletes from around the world belt out their favorite tunes in English, Spanish or whatever their hearts desire. The crowd around the stage offers their support, singing along or breaking into a dance battle as the music plays.

If loud music isn’t an athlete’s favorite, the main plaza’s morning activities may better suit them: yoga is a quieter option.

 

7) Laundry

Even with all the fun activities, a Village cannot forget the basics. There’s a dining hall, a convenience store that stocks everything from sunscreen to Oreos, and (of course) beds to sleep in. Yet of all the things athletes mentioned when talking about the Village, there was one amenity that was surprisingly popular: laundry.

For athletes, one of the necessities is clean uniforms, which usually means a lot of time washing clothing. Fortunately, the Village has them covered as well – it offers free, same-day laundry service. While their clothing gets cleaned, athletes have more time to spend on other things, such as training and, just maybe, joining the circus.

From juggling lessons to laundry, the Youth Olympic Village has it all. Parents around the globe can rest easy, knowing their young athletes are staying active, engaged and, just as importantly, clean.