It's a jarring way to begin a tour because the film's message is that being an Olympian is all about gold medals and jingoistic American rah-rah. It's not.

In fact, the centers prove that being an Olympian is about individual hard work, sacrifice, endless practice and little glory. The marksman who can hit a target as big as a pinhole usually doesn't draw a crowd.

—Chula Vista

Where: 2800 Olympic Parkway, Chula Vista, about 45 minutes southeast of San Diego. Open since 1995, it covers 155 acres. The city's elevation is 69 feet above sea level. (, 888-659-8687)

For tourists: The training center has had so few tourists that its big visitor center and souvenir store are closed. Free guided tours in golf carts are offered only at 11 a.m. on Saturdays; it's open other days for a self-guided audio walking tour.

Visitors begin their tour by watching a little TV showing the promo film that's shown in Colorado Springs.

What's to see: Spacious, beautiful and surrounded by hills and the Lower Otay Lake reservoir, the center concentrates on the outdoor sports of track and field, archery, soccer, rugby, triathlon, field hockey, rowing, BMX Supercross, beach volleyball, badminton, boxing, cycling, kayaking and rowing. About 70 athletes live on site and 70 more are in nearby Chula Vista.

When I visited, the field hockey team was practicing, as were javelin throwers and shot putters, rowers and archers. Paralympic athletes ran on the track. I also saw the women's rugby team; rugby will become an Olympic sport in 2016.

Highlights: The chance to see archery practice up close. The archers work so smoothly and fast, you can't hear the arrow hit. The archery facility is the largest in North America. It has 50 lanes and can accommodate 200.

Needs improvement: The closed visitor center and gift shop are a downer. If more people visit, perhaps both can reopen.


Ellen Creager: