Countries from all over the world participate in the Olympics, and there’s no better way to soak up their cultures than to visit the many hospitality houses in London that have been set up as venues for their athletes and fans to gather.
Learn the fine
art of yodelling at Austria
House, watch an ice skating show at Sochi
Russia House and find out exactly how many seconds until the 2016 Olympics
in Rio de Janeiro at Casa
Brasil. And at almost all the houses you can cheer on the team on the big
screen, swill some local booze and dance to live music. You don’t even have to
be in London to visit Kenya House,
which is hosting Google hangout (a live video chat through Google+), for
anyone to join from their computer.
Here are a few
of the most unique houses that are open to the public. See them before they
close on 12 August.
reason to visit Belgium
House is not for an order of their mouth-watering fries or a stack of their
waffles, but for its location in historic Middle Temple. Built in 1562, Middle
Temple is one of the four Inns of Court -- four ancient societies for lawyers
in the UK -- located on three acres of gardens between Fleet Street and the River
Thames. Middle Temple hosted the first performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth
Night in 1602, and in 1584 Sir Walter Raleigh received a charter here from
Elizabeth I to establish the colony of Virginia in North America. Middle Temple
is also located next to Temple Church,
which was the headquarters of the Knights of Templar in the 12th Century and
was featured in the movie The Da Vinci Code.
wandered around Middle Temple checking out old suits of armour, reading the
plaques and taking in all the history, you can grab a Stella or Hoegaarden and
watch the games on a movie theatre-size screen in the grand hall. Then wander
back to the expansive gardens while nibbling on Belgian fries with frit'kot (made of mayo, ketchup and
onions). And if you're into cycling, be sure to check out the Belgian
Cycling Paradise, an outdoor exhibit featuring historic racing bikes and a
virtual cycling tour of Belgium, the founder of cycle racing.
Even though Brazil
is not hosting the Summer Games until 2016, they started the party early at Casa Brasil, located in Somerset
House, an enormous neoclassical building in central London that overlooks the
Thames just east of Waterloo Bridge, where Elizabeth I lived before she became Queen.
Today Somerset House is known as a centre for the arts, and plays host to the
popular Tiffany & Co ice skating rink every winter. This summer, a stage
has been set up in the courtyard for Rio de Janeiro Hour,
a concert featuring a different type of Brazilian music each night, ranging
from Brazilian folk to bossa nova to samba. Inside Casa Brasil are three
different art exhibitions showcasing 33 artists and designers from around the
country. You can also get an early start on buying Olympics gear at Boutique
Rio 2016, a shop selling official Rio 2016 merchandise.
At the Imagination
Denmark house, the Danes have taken over St Katharine Dock, just east of
the iconic Tower Bridge, with a cosy outdoor affair that includes a big screen
and Danish-designed chairs for viewing the games; a cottage completely
furnished in stylish Danish furniture; a kitchen for cooking demos; and a few
stalls featuring Danish fashion and jewellery. This is probably the most
family-friendly of the houses, with a Lego replica of the Olympic Park, which
took 300 hours to build. For adults, there's a 60ft restored Viking ship docked in the marina area and a re-enactment
of the book Beowulf.
Sochi is the
home of the 2014 Winter Olympics and Sochi
House in Kensington Gardens is aimed at getting visitors excited for their
arrival. Visitors can take a virtual train ride through Russia, go on a virtual
bobsled run and take their photo with the current Olympic torch. You can also buy
tickets to see six Russian Olympic figure skaters and 18 world champion skaters
perform in a show at an ice arena in the Sochi House pavilion.
The Russia House, also in Kensington
Gardens, is more traditional and showcases the food and culture of Russia. You
can picnic in the park, learn how to the winter sport of curling, meet Russian
athletes and sample Russian foods such as shashlik
(A beef or mutton kebab), pirozhki (savoury
pastries filled with meat or fish and rice) and blini (a small buckwheat pancake typically served with sour cream caviar) and
enjoy roaming Russian performers as well as outdoor concerts and dance