Sailing down the Thames from the Festival Pier in the west to the O2 in the east, Olympic fans don’t have to go far to find a party with a host of colourful Olympic houses dotted along the banks jostling for their attention.
HOUSE OF SWITZERLAND
Above and below: House of Switzerland
At Glaziers’ Hall near London Bridge you can paint the town red with Swiss fans. Watch the Olympic action on the big screen in market square and mingle with the likes of Roger Federer and other Swiss medallists who’ll drop by to sign the Wall of Fame.
There’s all the traditional Swiss stuff you’d expect, such as chocolate (a whole wall of Lindt balls!) and the Swiss Alps (actually a climbing wall shaped as a mountain peak which fans have to scale to be in with a chance to win a trip to Switzerland.
But the Swiss want to show off their creative side too. So fans can play Swiss video games specially designed for the Red Zone featuring Heidi and Willem Tell (downloadable from the Swiss House website); see the stunning graffiti from a street art battle between famous Swiss and British artists; taste Bernese food with a twist at three restaurants, courtesy of caterers Mosimann’s; party with up-and-coming Swiss bands on stage every night; or simply chill at ‘Le Club’ with jazz provided by the Montreux Jazz Festival.
Don’t miss the “Bernese Games” (4-5 August), with its Alpine Wrestling and stone tossing, folk dancing in traditional costume and yodelling concerts
Venue: Glaziers’ Hall,
9 Montague Close, SE1 9DD
Dates: 20 July-12 August
Nestling in the shadow of the Tower of London is Trinity Hall, which has been converted in to a Tirolean Alpine hut. Fans can watch the sporting action on the big screen while enjoying Austrian Beer, Weisswein Spritzer, Schnapps or Almdudler in the Tirolean Alpine Garden. Austrian treats, such as Apfelstrudel or Kaiserschmarrn will also be served.
There’s also a traditional British red telephone box: pick up the phone, record your yodel and you will be in with a chance to win a week’s summer holiday to Mayrhofen.
There will be a Snow Day and Apres-Ski party (29 July),where the London summer will be transformed into Alpine scenes. At the Apres-Ski party with DJ Tirol the person with the quirkiest ski outfit will win a skiing holiday in the Austrian Tirol. For business, there will be a Tirol Travel Day (31 July) and Technology Day (8 August).
Venue: Trinity House, EC3N 4DH
Dates: 26 July-12 August
Opening hours: 10.00-23.00 daily
Cross London Bridge and you will come to the majestic Old Billingsgate, which for the duration of the Games will be Club France and for the first time it is opening its doors to the public.
Fans will be able to watch live events on giant screens and meet sporting heroes who will be commentating on competitions and giving demos. Visitors will be able to test their starting times, record a video message for an athlete and learn about an Olympic sport.
La Brasserie will serve first-rate food and wine provided by caterers Fauchon. Each day’s medal winners will arrive straight from the podium and celebrate with the fans till dawn, to live music from Akhenaton, Louis Bertignac, Jean Roch, Wax Tailor, Cali, Olivia Ruiz, Souad Massi, DJ Kheops, Imany and others.
Venue: Old Billingsgate, EC3R 6DX
Dates: 28 July-12 August
Admission: Day pass (9.00am – 7.00pm), £5 / Free entry for same-day Olympic ticket holders; Evening pass from 9.00 pm, £40 (Gold medals celebration, Concerts, DJ sets); Night pass from midnight, £20 (Concerts, DJ sets). On site purchase only.
On your bikes!
This is the first time Belgium has hosted its own Olympic House – but if it appears vaguely familiar, that’s because the venue, the ancient Middle Temple, has featured in the Da Vinci Code.
Naturally fans visiting Belgium House can look forward to plenty of beer and chocolates while cheering on their athletes on the big screen.
But there’s more: the land that gave us Tintin is also presenting a cartoon exhibition featuring 500 Olympic cartoons from 46 countries. There’s a London to London photographic exhibition and best of all, a range of Olympic Smurfs on sale.
Belgium is reputedly the birthplace of cycle racing so Belgium House has teamed up with Cycling Paradise to create an interactive cycling exhibition in the Fountain Court where visitors can virtually cycle through Belgium – from Waterloo to Flanders Fileds – and stand a chance of winning a trip to the country.
Olympic cyclists led by legend Eddy Merckx will cycle from Brussels to London arriving at the Belgium House on the opening day of the Olympic Games.
Venue: Middle Temple, Middle Temple Lane, EC4Y 9AT
Dates: 27 July-12 August
Admission: Cycling Paradise, free; Belgium House, £5 (no online booking)
Get ready for Rio
Casa Brasil will bring the spirit of carnival to London at Somerset House. As the hosts for the 2016 Olympics, preparations for the Rio Games are the main focus of events.
Three exhibitions will reveal the Latin American giant’s extraordinary diversity: Brazil – the Time is Now provides an overview of Brazilian culture; From the Margin to the Edge unveils the best of Brazilian design; and Passion and Transformation highlights Rio’s urban transformation driven by the Olympics.
The film festival Occupation Onscreen (23-31 July) includes 12 feature films and 20 short films on Rio (including a paraglider flight simulation over Rio).
During the day, fans can watch the action on the big screen and as the sun sets, the venue’s expansive courtyard will come alive with a series of concerts while fans munch on tasty salgadinhos from food stalls. Brazilian medallists will also make an appearance in the amphitheatre, where press conferences will be held.
Fans will not leave empty handed because Rio 2016 paraphernalia will be on sale for the first time.
Venue: Somerset House
Dates: 21 July-8 September
Times: 10.00-22.00 daily in the courtyard (exhibitions close at 19.00 except for late opening Thursdays until 21.00)
Admission: Free (tickets for films are on first come first served basis)
Feel at home
You’ll probably hear South Africa’s Olympic House before you see it as South Africans armed with their vuvuzelas converge on eKhaya (which means ‘home’) at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank. Nothing unifies the Rainbow Nation quite like sport and a star-studded line-up of artists will get the party started as fans gather around the big screen to cheer on their hero ‘Blade Runner’ Oscar Pistorius. The heady mix of dance, music, films, comedy and fashion is the perfect showcase for South Africa’s diverse talents.
Pop outfit Flash Republic (30 July); Parlotones with the Queen of Kwaito, Thandiswa Mazwai (31 July); films from top South African talent (1,2,3, August); 100 years of urban history through fashion (4 August); Sipho Hotstix Mabuse and Ringo (12 August).
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank, SE1
Dates: 26 July-12 August; 19 August–9 September
Times: 10.00-22.00 daily
It’s a double gold for Jamaica. With Usain Bolt and other talented Jamaicans likely to rake in the medals, not only is this small island nation predicted to top the gold medal per capita table, but Jamaicans are also celebrating their Golden Jubilee smack bang in the middle of the Games on 6 August. With so much on it’s no wonder they have such an impressive Games house at The Bubble at the O2 (which also hosts the gymnastics and basketball). Visitors to Jamaica House can experience the island’s history, attend trade and investment symposia, view an exhibition on Bob Marley and then sample the nation’s food, drink and, of course, live music in the Respect Jamaica 50 festival, featuring some of the finest Reggae, Ska and dub artists.
The Bubble at the 02
Venue: The Bubble at the O2
Dates: 3-10 August
Opening hours: 16.00-midnight
Admission: Free but pre-registration required
It takes true ingenuity to squeeze a cruise ship into a canal in the docklands but the Germans managed it and for the duration of the Olympics the MS Deutschland will be a luxury floating hotel for German Olympic VIPs. German fans will not be far away as Deutsches Haus has set up a fan fest at the Museum of London Docklands, where 1500 fans can cheer their team on big screens with German broadcasts, while enjoying pretzels and beer and live music from house band Fresh Music Live.
Museum of London Docklands
Venue: Museum of London Docklands, No.1 Warehouse, West India Quay E14 4AL
Opening hours: 12.00-01.00
Admission: Free until 17.00 then £10 after
The Vikings are coming!
If you see a longship sailing towards Tower Bridge, fear not. This will be the most pleasant Viking invasion because St Katharine Docks is host to Imagination, Denmark’s family-friendly Olympic showcase. Kids will be able to explore the 17.3m replica boat from the Roskilde Viking Museum and learn about Vikings on 6-8 August.
But it all kicks off on 27 July with a performance of the Tivoli Boys Guard as H.R.H. Prince Consort Henrik cuts the ribbon. Then it’s grub time: the Danes have a galaxy of Michelin stars and nine top chefs and food producers will host the Danish Food Days (27-29 July) where fans can learn how to make their own sausages and tuck into traditional Danish pastries, mouth-watering smørrebrød and Danish Dogs, while keeping an eye on Danish TV2’s Olympic broadcasts on the big screen.
Hans Christian Andersen will make an appearance to tell fairy stories (30 July-3 Aug) and––– kids can dress up as their favourite character.
D is also for design and visitors will be able to experience the best of Denmark’s fashion, sustainable architecture and that most famous icon of Danish design: Lego. Kids (and adults!) can join in the fun constructing miniatures of the Olympic venues as well as a Lego wind turbine (4-5 August).
St Katharine Docks
Venue: St Katharine Docks,
50 St. Katharines Way, E1W 1LA
Dates: 27 July-12 August
Opening hours: 11.00-22.00