Monday 30 July 2012

The world welcomes London (updated)

People enjoying the sunshine by the river came across a lot of red-themed activity at London Bridge. Switzerland has taken over Glaziers' Hall for its Olympic House, and has thrown open the doors to the public. You can eat Swiss food, taste Swiss chocolate, experience Swiss mountains and enjoy Swiss cultural events. It's open daily until 11pm, and more information about its activities is here

While many other countries' headquarters are less welcoming to the general public, some which are inviting us in throughout the games include:

  • 53 African nations have come together at Africa Village, Kensington Gardens, and it is well worth a visit. Many countries have stands, with varied contents which include art, craft demonstrations, local products and Ethiopian coffee. Open 9am - 10pm daily until 12 August, admission free. However, it MAY HAVE CLOSED EARLY
  • While you're in Kensington Gardens, you can also visit Russia's Sochi Park with its ice arena and interactive, 4D Visitor Experience Pavilion - also until 12 August. It looks very entertaining - but with ticket prices to match, starting at £18 for a standard adult ticket. (I did visit on a weekday and they were letting people in for free, so it might be worth checking. It's a slightly odd experience: you are escorted by guides throughout.)
  • Casa Brasil at Somerset House. Since Rio are hosting the games in 2016, expectations of this venue are high. There are free exhibitions, open daily (8am - 7pm) until 8 September, and regular events. 
  • The themed events at Imagine Denmark include two days of LEGO activities! It's a largely-outdoor venue, with a Viking ship and some great Lego including a model of the Olympic Park. Find details of its 'spotlight events' and regular activities at St Katharine's Dock here. It's open from 11am-10pm daily, 27 July - 12 August.
  • The sporty red bus outside Czech House at the Business Design House has already become an Olympic landmark; inside, there are exhibitions, a souvenir shop, bar, concerts and visiting athletes. It's open daily until 12 August (10am-midnight, Sundays 10am - 10pm) and entrance is £5 on the door, £3 online
  • Maison d'Haiti is an exhibition of Haitian art, clothing and furnishings at William Road Gallery (7-9 William Road NW1, 26 July - 15 August). 
  • Belgium House in Middle Temple costs £5 to enter, with the promise of learning about Belgium and its sportspeople as well as enjoying Belgian beer - but their Cycling Paradise exhibition is free. Visit daily until 12 August, 11am - 2am (the exhibition closes at 7pm). 
  • German House, in Museum of Docklands, is open to the public daily from noon, until 12 August, with admission £10 after 5pm. There are German specialities and live entertainment on offer. 
  • South Africa's national house, named Ekhaya, is at the South Bank Centre until 12 August. As well as an exhibition there are daily performances of various kinds at 12 noon, 2.30pm and 4.30pm. 
  • Casa Italia in the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre is open daily, noon to 8pm, until 12 August. Admission to its exhibitions, live events and sponsor displays is free.  
  • Although Austria House occupies Trinity House, the public events are in its Tyrolean Alpine Gardens in front. If you fancy schnapps, apple strudel and yodelling, it will be open until 12 August. There are also various tourist brochures and maps and some special Olympic bread!
  • Bayt Qatar in 2 Savoy Place includes an exhibition, partly in support of Qatar's own bid to host the Olympics, and some rather nice seating areas with complimentary fruit drinks. It opens 3pm - 3am, again until 12 June.
  • A late starter is Jamaica House, which doesn't open until 5 August - but from then until 12 August dedicates itself to celebrating 50 years of independence. Go along to the O2 between 4pm and midnight for music, cultural events and food. It's free, although other events in the O2 celebrating Jamaica do have admission charges.
  • While most of these houses are intended as showcases for their countries, some are very much bases for existing supporters. Club France offers French visitors a place to watch the games on a large screen, surrounded by their national media and sponsors - plus an Adidas shop full of France-themed products. Their venue at Old Billingsgate is open to the public 9am-7pm daily (27 July - 12 August), at a cost of £5 (they'll also want to see identification). A zippy video offers a preview, albeit with more logos than information.
  • Conforming to national stereotypes is Irish House, based in a pub (Big Chill, King's Cross) until 12 August and open daily from 10am to 2am. Access to its live screenings, entertainment and barbeque is £10 (£15 after 6pm). 
  • Nearby, in Granary Square, is Kiwi House, base for New Zealanders, which offers barbeque food and entertainment. It costs £5 per day, more for some special events.  
  • Perhaps most in tune with the corporate nature of the games is Holland Heineken House (no prizes for guessing who's sponsoring it). It has taken over Alexandra Palace with shops, cafes and a programme of events. You need to buy a ticket in advance and take your passport/ID card to get in. 


Hels said...

What a brilliant idea - national centres for food, exhibitions and activities. I would head straight to Holland House because I used to love Alexander Palace (and because the Dutch are so hospitable).

Becky said...

You may want to head down to Austria House Tirol after watching this video from the Apres-ski party!!

This weekend it's Ischgl's time to party....on Sat 4th and Sun 5th Ausgust! see you there!

CarolineLD said...

Becky, I had a very nice lunch there - I'd recommend the spinach and cheese dumplings!