National Hospitality Houses Compete to Throw This Summer's Best Olympic Party in London
Ice rinks in Hyde Park, beer halls in north London and scantily clad models by Big Ben.
LONDON, ENGLAND, June 26, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Sporting excellence may be the name of the game inside the Olympic Park and other Olympic venues around London this summer - but the participating nations will also be competing on a very different playing field throughout the capital during the London Olympics.
The race to put on the most memorable National Hospitality House has become a fiercely contested event over the past few decades - and the London Olympics has raised the bar even further. Millions of pounds have been spent by National Olympic Committees with highlights including Russia's summer ice arena in Hyde Park to promote the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, an African village in Kensington Gardens and a Dutch beer hall in Alexandra Palace.
While around 10,000 athletes representing a total of 205 nations do their best to pick up as many gold, silver and bronze medals as possible, VIPs, dignitaries and Olympic officials will be doing their very best to pick up as many canapes and glasses of champagne as the unofficial Olympic schmoozing season gets underway.
A stunning array of Olympic hospitality hubs have been confirmed in top venues all over London, with nations aiming to promote their country as a tourist and business location while providing their Olympic team a vital media base for the duration of the Games.
Win or lose on the track or field, each nation wants to leave its mark on London. No more so than Russia, which has set up two huge hospitality centres in London's most famous Royal Park. Amid Bacchanalian festivities all over the capital, the Russians have perhaps taken a bold step in making the vast 10,000-square metre Russia Park in Perks Field alongside Kensington Palace an alcohol-free zone.
But a lack of vodka is compensated by a hive of Russian cultural attractions, including traditional folk music and craft, regional dancing and Russian food stands. The biggest ever showcase of Russian culture in London will also boast a multi-purpose sports zone containing a mini ice rink that converts to a football pitch, a snowboarding simulator, ice curling tracks and much more.
If this is not enough, besides the nearby Albert Memorial a second Russian venture will appear to promote the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. No expenses have been spared, with organisers promising a 4D interactive experience involving virtual chairlift rides and daily theatrical ice dance performances by the world's leading figure skaters in a custom-built Ice Arena.
A discus throw away from these Russian extravagances, all 53 African nations are coming together for the first time in Olympic history to put on a vibrant Africa House in Kensington Gardens. Meanwhile, bringing a touch of Samba to the heart of London for two whole months, Somerset House will receive a distinctly carnival-esque makeover this summer with Casa Brasil setting up shop throughout the London Olympics and Paralympics.
France have endeavoured to put their Paris disappointment to rest by forking out well over a million pounds on securing (and renovating) Old Billingsgate Market as their Olympic base, where pop-up French restaurants will serve up Gallic gastronomic delights and parties will run until the early hours. In the shadow of Big Ben at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Casa Italia will feature beautiful Italian models and trademark FIAT cars in a special "Made in Italy" expo open to the general public.
With something of an Oktoberfest vibe rumoured to be in the pipeline, visitors to Deutsches Haus can get into the Bavarian spirit with the help of German beers, bratwursts and pretzels. Showing few signs of their prized austerity, the Germans are taking over two venues for the Games - the Museum of London Docklands and the 575ft five-star cruise liner MS Deutschland.
The House of Switzerland at Glaziers Hall near Borough Market looks to be one of the go-to hospitality destinations of the London Olympics, with a Red Zone celebrating the very best of Swiss culture alongside a wide range of open-air concerts, films, special events and late-night parties - with appearances by tennis star Roger Federer and Michelin-starred chef Anton Mosimann.
Plans for a week-long Jamaica Festival at Finsbury Park were scuppered over concerns about costs, but venues at The O2 will come alive if Usain Bolt wins his expected 100m gold medal. There will also be a Respect Jamaica 50 event to celebrate the island's 50th anniversary since gaining independence. Trinidad & Tobago will carry out similar celebrations by hiring out the whole of the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn for five weeks.
USA House at the prestigious Royal College of Art will (predictably) boast a Budweiser Bar and a McDonald's; Holland Heineken House is turning Alexandra Palace into a huge orange-clad beer hall; while Ireland is showing its true colours by hiring the Big Chill House off Brick Lane, where plans are said to involve decking out the bar in the style of Father Ted character Mrs Doyle's living room.
These are just a taste of the many hospitality hubs cropping up across London for the duration of the Games. While many are low-key and open only to VIPs and invited guests, the vast majority of National Houses are open to the public as nations bid to raise their profile, push tourism and put on a good knees-up. With giant screens showing all the Olympic action and medal ceremonies, National Houses are also a great way of experiencing the Games if you don't have tickets to the actual events.
LondonTown.com's full and comprehensive guide to Olympic National Hospitality Houses brings you all the information you need to know about all confirmed nations and venues so that you won't miss any of the best parties in town during the London Olympics. Let the Games - and parties - begin. Cheers!
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