24 August 2012

London's Olympic sized hangover!

We are having a summer like no other, as the Mayor of London's slogan tells us on billboards, leaflets and even T-shirts, but it's not over yet. We are just taking a breather at the moment and recovering from our Olympic hangover!

London 2012, it certainly is.....

That Olympic sized hangover is pretty big and hard to shift after the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics-  it's a bit like we have been mixing our drinks at a very long party. It was such fun to be in London for both major events with so much going on around the major set pieces thanks to the London2012 Festival and everyone else jumping on the bandwagon to lay on great side events. 

Here are just 5 of the great things I've enjoyed since the Jubilee kicked off on June 2nd which are unique to this summer.  It was hard to pick just 5 and they are in no order: 
  1. The Jubilee River Pageant from Tower of London 
  2.  Olympic Opening Ceremony - I got to go to the rehearsal which was amazing
  3.  BT River of Music with Jools Holland, Beverley Knight and the Saxophone Massive
  4. The flags of the world in Regent Street
  5.  Urban Classics combo of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and urban artists including Fazer from N'Dubz

River pageant
Opening Ceremony

Jools Holland's big band

Welcoming the world on Regents Street

Fazer and BBC Symphpny Orchestra

The day after the Olympic Games closing ceremony I had so many people ask me: 'what am I going to do now the Olympics are over, isn't it going to be really dull?'  There were no more gold medal highs, no more strange sports to watch and become instant armchair experts on and no feel good buzz around London. We were missing our fix so what to do? Taking a deep breath we had to look ahead and see what was that appearing in the viewfinder - the Notting Hill Carnival, Europe's biggest street party.  That'll do the job so I'm getting myself ready - Jamaican t-shirt and breads, loud whistles, cans of Red Stripe and a gang of mates to come along and enjoy the fun.

Lifting our heads to the week beyond Carnival, the Paralympics are coming and we'll be jumping back on the roller coaster of sport and hopefully cheering Team GB to lots of gold medals.

There is always something great happening in London and I'll make sure I bring the highlights in this blog.

Bye for now

9 August 2012

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

3 August 2012

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,

1 August 2012

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,