On the Town - Houses of Fun; Enjoying the "Craic"
So Far, So Good for Sochi
The curtain came down Tuesday on the spectacular ice show that has had thousands flocking to Russia Sochi Park in Kensington Gardens since the start of the Games.
Sochi ambassador Tatiana Navka starred in the Sochi Park Ice Show that ended Tuesday. (ATR/Panasonic Lumix)
Former Olympians have entertained more than 1,000 people every night as the centerpiece of the Sochi experience as the Russian city promotes itself ahead of the Winter Olympics in 2014.
“The show was amazing and has been very, very popular,” said PR man Nick Dawes, and it's little wonder as the cast included six Olympic and 18 world champion ice skaters, Ilya Averbukh and Tatiana Navka among them.
The show – “Sochi: Small Stories of a Big City” featured live music and singing as well as breathtaking solo, pair and group performances that left audiences yelling for more.
Although the show has now ended, Dawes hopes many more visitors will enjoy the Russia Sochi Park experience. It's the perfect place to learn more about Sochi, see the preparations ahead of 2014, marvel at a 4D chairlift ride up the Krasnodar mountains, and enjoy interactive activities such as a virtual bobsleigh ride.
The venue is proving very popular with the Russian athletes here in London, and they can be seen wandering around in their distinctive tracksuits, supplied by Bosco.
Sponsors such as Sberbank, Rosneft and Dow have played a key role in creating Sochi Park, and Dawes said: “The aim is to let people know about Sochi and the 2014 Games and this is the perfect showcase.”
Houses of Fun
While many nations are welcoming the world to their own hospitality houses, two venues are providing a truly global experience for visitors to London 2012.
Supersized synchronized swimming at the House of Nations in King's Cross. (ATR/Panasonic Lumix)
The Concerto Group is running the “House of Nations” in both King's Cross and the Tower of London. Sports fans and, increasingly, athletes are flocking through the doors.
“It has been an incredible experience so far,” enthused Simon Mitchell, Concerto’s Business Development Manager based at the King's Cross site.
“Not every country has their own national house and the feedback was that there was a demand for venues like we have created. We are open from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m., and as more and more athletes finish competing we are seeing them on a daily basis.”
Individuals and groups can book space in the “House”. The Finnish Prime Minister was among those to attend the Finnish day at King's Cross in what is normally a community building.
“If you are interested in a particular sport you can book a screen,” said Mitchell, who is loving the Olympic experience.
“I have lived in London all my life, and the best thing about the Olympics is how brilliant it has been as a spectacle, and how much everyone is enjoying it. Everyone is so positive and the volunteers have made it special.”
Concerto has also been involved in creating the now-defunct Africa Village, catering for Team USA and holding events across the city such as a Speedo party attended by all the big names from the Aquatics Center.
Enjoying the "Craic"
Sports fans wanting to see Ireland’s hero boxer Katie Taylor go for gold should head for the Irish House at the Chill Out Bar in King's Cross.
Irish folk music is the soundtrack to the Games at the Irish House, King's Cross. (ATR/Panasonic Lumix)
No athlete has brought out bigger cheers than the darling of the Irish team, and the roof of the bar was almost taken off when she reached the semi-finals.
“The atmosphere was amazing,” said Neil Fluellen, who will be working at the House until it closes in the early hours of Monday morning.
“No one parties like the Irish, and everyone is welcome to come down here and join the craic. Of course, we have a lot of Irish visitors but we are popular with Americans, Canadians, Dutch and Aussies. Everyone is swapping flags, ties and pins.”
Open from 10 a.m. till late, the House offers live music throughout the day. Before the evening, it's gentler folk music, but the pace is rocking to a livelier beat in the evening. Downstairs is the Father Ted bar, up above a rooftop terrace.
“This is a well-known bar and we have taken it over for the whole of the Games,” added Fluellen. “It is also great as Irish celebrities like Dar O’Brian and Ardal O’Hanlon pop in.”
There is a cover charge for entry, starting at £5, but one surprise is that you cannot enjoy a drop of the black stuff, as they were unable to reach a deal with Guinness.
Don’t Miss Mizuno
If the Olympian feats of recent days have inspired you to get off the couch, you can test your sporting skills with Japanese sportswear manufacturer Mizuno.
Inside the Mizuno Performance Center. (ATR/Panasonic Lumix)
Already about 6,000 people have enjoyed the attractions on offer at the Mizuno Performance Center at Center Point on Tottenham Court Road.
“Just register your email and you can test your football, handball and sprinting skills,” explained Tomohiro Ota, Mizuno’s Head of Sports Europe. The sprint is over 20 meters, and you can have a virtual race against Rugby 7s star Dan Norton, who is believed to be quicker that Usain Bolt over that distance.
The center has welcomed Mizuno sportsmen and women throughout the Olympics, including gold medalist Sally Gunnell and sprint star Frankie Fredericks. Their signed footwear is included in a display showing the Japanese firm’s history dating back to 1906.
Mizuno is supplying kit to a number of Olympic teams, including the USA volleyball team and Japanese teams in judo and table tennis.
Expert advice and testing is on hand if you want to find the perfect sport shoe for you. One top tip is to avoid the peak time of 2 to 6 p.m.
Low-Key King Carl
You might think being an Olympic legend, you would try to exploit that status with VIP access to venues across the city – but not U.S. sprinter Carl Lewis.
On Monday night, the great man waited in line and paid his entrance fee to the impressive House of Nations venue in King's Cross. Door staff failed to recognize him, but he did not create a fuss and went on to enjoy three hours in the bar cum club that has been welcoming the world throughout the Games.
Party Plans Fall at First Hurdle
Liu Xiang’s failure to qualify for the 110m hurdles final stopped plans for a global party in their tracks. Tsing Tao beer is one of the partner sponsors of the House of Nations venues at Tower Hill and King's Cross, and the Chinese brewery had planned to have a live link to China for the final.
But Liu Xiang, gold medal winner in 2004, had a repeat of his Beijing nightmare and failed to progress beyond the first round after hitting the first hurdle. That meant that unlike the beer, plans for the party had gone flat.
Written and reported in London by Matt Horn
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