The Olympic Hospitality Houses bring more fun to London

We’ve all been glued to the TV, except for the lucky few who have had tickets to watch the Olympics live, and have enjoyed wall to wall sport – especially as the wonderful Team GB have won so many medals! However, there is a lot more going on in London than just sport as there are themed exhibitions, shows, concerts and the National Hospitality Houses. 

Most nations with a team competing in the Olympic games set up a national house to be their headquarters for the officials, dignitaries, people visiting from that nation and for medal celebrations. The houses are a chance to showcase their nation to the world in London and they are open to all visitors, although some do charge. 

I’ve visited several and heard about many more so here’s a quick peek at a couple I have enjoyed.  Denmark have set up camp in St Katherine’s Dock and to call it a ‘house’ is not quite right as they have taken over the Dickens Inn and the area around it for the Imagine Denmark show. Anyone can stroll in and enjoy the food, the exhibitions and watch their teams compete on Danish TV. There are lots of typically Danish things there such as: a wind turbine made completely out of Lego; a Viking boat you can sit in with sailors in traditional costume; a summer house decorated in Danish style; and, a wonderful schooner called Danish Crown that has come from Denmark full of bacon for us!  The Danes in the crowd got very excited when their medal winner arrived and he was full of smiles having his photo taken with everyone!  I watched handball with the excited Danes who kindly explained the rules to me. The food and drink on offer is excellent too with cooking demos celebrating their culinary successes and authentic hot dogs a real must, topping off a great interactive experience.

Have a look:

Lego wind turbine

 

Danish design

 

Viking boat

 

Danish medalist

 

Bloggers gathering on the sail boat
Watching Denmark win at handball

Another of my favourites was Jamaica House at the 02 Arena. This is the place to go for a party with big screens, a great sound system and live music and DJs. You can pick up some tasty Jamaican patties or a full meal with dumplings and wash it down with Red Stripe or Appleton’s rum.  There is an outdoor terrace to enjoy the warm evenings and heaters just in case the temperature drops a bit. On the terrace you can enjoy BBQs, DJs and another bar.  Back indoors there’s a beach for kids and a great shop with everything in Jamaican colours and their wonderful Blue Mountain coffee. You have the chance to scream and shout as the Jamaican sprints screech down the track. I was lucky enough to see Yohan Blake run and then Veronica Campbell-Brown and everyone was on their feet – I can’t imagine what it’s like when Bolt wins!  The sounds were cranking up as I left and I could tell the party would be going on well into the night!

Tasty jerk chicken patty

 

The only beer to drink

 

Out on the terrace

 

Fun for the kids on the beach

 

Colourful stuff in the shop

 

Jamaican sprinters on the big screen

It’s a great time to be in London and I’ll bring you more tales soon.

Bye for now
Sue
www.itsyourlondon.co.uk
@itsyourlondon 

Visiting London 2012’s Olympic Park

Visiting the Olympic Park is an exciting experience whatever you go there for. I’ve been out there a couple of times, once for the technical rehearsal which was in my blog on 24th July when I couldn’t spoil the surprise by telling you anything about the show!  My second trip was this week when we had day passes and although we didn’t have any event tickets, we had time to explore and enjoy the whole park. 


Arriving for the technical rehearsal was a special experience and the excitement level of the crowd of specially invited volunteers and others connected with the Opening Ceremony, was so high you could light up the stadium with it! Being there to see the show was a once in a lifetime moment. We didn’t have the videos so Mr Bean and James Bond’s appearances were a surprise as was arrival of David Beckham and the beautiful lighting of the cauldron in the full show.  To be in the stadium to see the transformation from the countryside to the industrial scene with massively loud, driving drums was breath-taking. The gasps when the chimneys came out of nowhere and the intricate choreography of thousands of people weaving round each other was extraordinary to see. The wildly energetic dancing to a run down of so much stand out British music was great fun and I could see everything as the views in the stadium from my top seat were splendid, and I saw quite a few bits that didn’t make the TV. The scope of what was going on in front of us was immense and there was something happening in every inch of the stadium floor and in the sky and in the stands from the lights that were in front of each seat.  I’ll never forget it and it was made extra special by knowing a good friend was actually performing!


A few photos to take you back to the greatest show on earth:

The bell that starts it all going – rung by Bradley Wiggins

 

Yours truly in the stadium
The countryside with farm animals

 

Jaw dropping scenes as the countryside becomes industial

 

The Olympic rings are forged

 

The NHS section – kids trampolining!

 

Lyrics racing around the stands from our seat lights

 

Music and lights – full on!

 

Tribute to Tim Berners-Lee – father of the internet

 

Orbit by night – with a blimp

It took me a few days to recover but I was keen to return to the Olympic Park and we managed to bag day tickets which gave us entry to the Park but not to any venues – a bargain at just £10!  We had the usual weather for summer 2012: sun, rain, cloud then blue sky and then all over again….  The park is huge and it took us ages to wander around, checking out the venues but also the amazing amount of lovely flowers, all planted by volunteers to come to their peak right now. There is plenty of catering and seats but little cover – we, of course, found the undercover champagne section so dodged the rain!  The big screens are good and clear and we watched in a state of nail biting tension as Zara and her team mates jumped for Olympic glory –  the gasps and oohs and aahs gave the moment a special feel.  We loved being there and in the end it didn’t matter though a ticket to see live sport would have been the icing on the cake.


Here are some photos to show you the amazing park:

Riverbank – hockey stadium
The elegant Aquatic Centre

 

The imposing Copper Box venue, busy with handball

 

Zara jumping on the big screen
The Velodrome – there may be GB gold in here!

 

 

Crowds watching with the Aquatic Centre behind and Orbit

 

Very appropriate art work!

 

Velodrome, BMX site and basketball venue

 

The park is flowery and landscaped

 

The wonderful stadium

 

We know how to have fun in the rain!



Fingers crossed for Team GB and to all other teams competing from every corner of the planet.


Bye for now,
Sue
www.itsyourlondon.co.uk
@itsyourlondon

Close encounters with the Olympic Torch in London

Olympic Fever has well and truly come to London and the Torch Relay has proved an amazing success, uniting all of the UK as the torch weaved its way around the country. Thousands of people have lined the streets to see it and cheer on the 8,000 proud torch bearers. 

I was lucky enough to have several close encounters and here’s a photo record of my week with the torch!

It started with the Torch Relay itself coming through Notting Hill where I live. There was a huge crowd waiting to see it sweep past – we had quite a speedy runner on our leg!

There goes the Torch!

Fresh from that excitement, we had tickets for the Torch Relay Concert in Hyde Park and could track the torch’s journey by the number of hovering helicopters following it as it went past Buckingham Palace to meet the royals before entering the park and lighting up a huge cauldron of flame! We heard the rather good torch song from Mark Ronson and Katy B and then an hilarious rousing speech from our Mayor Boris Johnson. 

The flame has lit the cauldron

The next day, the Olympic Flame was heading down the Thames from Hampton Court Palace to the Tower to be ready for the Opening Ceremony that very evening. It was travelling on the beautiful Gloriana which we last saw in the Jubilee River Pageant, and it was indeed a glorious sight as the flame was rowed along the Thames past crowds of cheering Brits and folk from all around the world. The excitement was contagious.

The flame rides on the front of Gloriana

My final encounter with the Torch came at the Olympic Park yesterday at the Coca Cola Beatbox where you can find out about all the specific beats drawn from Olympic sports that make up the Mark Ronson track we’d heard live the week before. Then you can have a photo of yourself with a torch, so of course I had to get one!

Yours truly in Olympic spirit!

What a week! More Olympic blogs to follow very soon….

Bye for now,
Sue
www.itsyourlondon.co.uk
@itsyourlondon

Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games!

I was luckily enough to have a ticket for last night’s technical rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Games!  So, what can I tell you? Danny Boyle, the amazingly talented film director of Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting and 127 hours who is running the show, pleaded with us to Save The Surprise with twitter hashtags on big screens all round the stadium. So, what to do? Do what the man says of course….

Precious ticket

However, I was in the Olympic Park and in the Olympic Stadium on a brilliantly sunny afternoon so let me show you what it’s like and give you just a few hints about the show, along with a couple of top tips if you are going to visit over the next few weeks. 


I took the tube to Stratford following the signs, the crowds and the instructions from the many folk on duty at the station and very soon we reached the entrance. There was a bit of a queue before the gates opened but the excitement was high so we Brits just got on with it. Once the gates pulled back however, it was very smooth and we sailed through the security which was airport style. Then we were in and the buzz was amazing.

Excitable queues

Contrary to reports, there is plenty of non McDonalds food of a very British style – fish and chips, Indian and pies along with sandwiches and roasts and a bar of course. . Strangely McDonalds was shut yesterday! My top tip is to take or buy water as the water fountains advertised are few and far between and had the biggest queues of all. In fact queues for food and drinks were big. There are benches to sit on tho’ I’m not sure how much fun it would be in the rain……

 

Non McDonalds food

 

Olympic park seating – great in the sunshine



The stadium looks wonderful and Orbit, love or hate it, is really impressive close up. We could wander around much of the Olympic site but the northern section was still closed to visitors. 

Olympic Stadium

 

Orbit



Inside, the stadium is huge but views are good from where ever you are. It’s on what they call Stadium Island, past a second ticket check, where there is more catering along the same lines as outside. The one place there were no queues at all were the toilets which was a welcome surprise. I can’t show any photos of the inside of the stadium as it was all dressed for the first section…..  But here it is on the way home, looking amazing at night: 

On my way home….



Then the show began and although it was not the full line up yet as several videos and some of the performances were not in last night, nor was the parade of athletes naturally, it was wonderful – strange in parts and absolutely brilliant in others. The movement of huge numbers of performers, the incredible scene changes, the fabulous music, the imagination – wow! You’ll have to watch it on Friday to learn more as my lips are sealed – save the surprise….

It’s nearly time for the Olympics to start and you can feel the excitement and tension rising in London. It’s getting really busy and a few things are not working yet but the sun has finally come out. Are you ready? I am!



Bye for now,
Sue
www.itsyourlondon.co.uk
@itsyourlondon 

Olympics…. only 73 days to go!

The start of Olympic Games is only 73 days but many of us are focusing on the Diamond Jubilee at the moment. The build up the Jubilee is very exciting, especially as we look ahead to the River Pageant. This is going to be the biggest event on the River Thames for 350 years (since Charles 11 if you like to know) with over 1000 boats forming a procession that will be 7 miles in length taking 90 minutes to pass by. There will even be a boat as a belfry with newly cast bells on ringing all the way and being ‘answered’ by bells in church towers along the route. The Royal Family will be on a boat and your blog writer will be in the Tower of London on the day so expect lots of photos and excitement in future blogs!

Olympic clock 73 days to go!

As well as the build up to the Jubilee, the Olympic preparations are all around us. I heard that the wonderful viewing platform and cafe by the Olympic Park was closing as the area will be an access route to the Park, so I headed down there to bring you the last photos of the venues.  Stratford is the main gateway tube station for the Olympics and you can see their signage is up and ready! 

 

 
Stratford station

There are 2 key places to view the Olympic Park in Stratford, the first being an indoor viewing area in John Lewis which gives you the chance to see the stadium and the wonderfully curved aquatic centre, on the left of this photo.

View from John Lewis

Across the other side of the park is the Greenway with its View Tube Cafe where you can see the stadium and Orbit right in front of you and they serve a great cup of coffee too!

View Tube Cafe

The stadium looks wonderful and will be the centre piece of the games and the park, seating 80,000 spectators for the much anticipated opening ceremony which has Danny Boyle (director of Slumdog Millionaire) as its Artistic Director . The red Orbit tower is impressive, looking like a crazy helter skelter and was designed by Anish Kapoor.

Stadium and Orbit

 

Olympic Stadium

 

Orbit

The Orbit tower has a viewing platform that will open during the games and will be accessible by a lift or by the 455 spiral staircase if you are feeling very energetic!  At  376 feet/114 metres it is Britain’s tallest sculpture. It is made from 60% recycled steel to reflect one of the key themes of the London Olympics. It is a controversial structure but I love it, it is crazy and wild looking but has energy and distinctiveness.

Orbit viewing platform

The great views from the View Tube cafe will be closed from 18th May but will reopen later in the year so I will keep an eye open for this news. Soon, however, you’ll be able to see the park from the inside as, after all, it is only 73 days to go!

 

Bye for now,
Sue
www.itsyourlondon.co.uk
@itsyourlondon
 

 

The Olympic countdown is on!

Last week saw the kick off of the 500 day countdown to the start of the London 2012 Olympics – which sounds like a lot of days still to go but it’ll soon be here and the excitement is bubbling up. The railway station St Pancras unveiled a set of huge Olympic rings for everyone to see as they arrive on Eurostar tho’ possibly a little cruel to the French who lost out in hosting 2012 and this is the first thing they will see when reaching London!

The BT Tower gave us a sound and light show with a big 500 days sign, a countdown and then huge loud fireworks which were brilliant but lasted a really short time – sign of the times perhaps! Still it was fun and I was interviewed live on BBC Radio London so I could tell Londoners all about it – fame at last! One final Olympics happening was the unveiling of the clock set up in Trafalgar Square which is counting down to the Olympics in days, hours, minutes and seconds. It’s proving a hit with visitors who all wanted their photo taken in front of it!

Spring has sprung in London so we booked ourselves for lunch into one of the buildings with the best views over this great city. The top floor of the Hilton Park Lane has a bar on one side and a Galvin brothers restaurant on the other. My cheeky request for ‘the table with the best view possible’ worked and we were given a large round table overlooking Hyde Park. The sun was so bright that the photos are not all that great (sorry about that) but you can see the huge expense of Hyde Park, the iconic Battersea Power Station, the back door of Buckingham Palace (good to be nosey!), a view over the City including the ever growing Shard tower and a quick snap of the outside so you know what the building looks like if you ever get a chance to visit. The food is great too and they do a wonderful special lunch deal which doesn’t break the bank, especially as they thrown in a free glass of champagne. It was a long lunch as you can imagine…..!