The London 2012 Games give countries a chance to show off their best to London residents and international visitors alike — so many take advantage by building “National Houses”. Some London 2012 country houses cost upwards of tens of millions to construct, and some offer an array of free activities inside. These 2012 Olympic national houses also give the foreign athletes to chance feel at “home” in London. Even smaller country houses offer an opportunity to catch a glimpse of your favourite athletes from those countries.
Here are the plans for a few of the country houses, with more details to be found by clicking the links below.
Africa: ****Closed early*** This year all 53 African National Olympic Committees will join forces to host one unique National Olympic House for the first time. It will be located at London’s scenic Kensington Gardens. Entrance is free and will be open from 27 July – 12 August.
Austria: Located at Trinity House, Austria House will host a range of events for fans. A large marquee in front of the house will be open to the public, giving all a chance to watch the Games and experience Austrian culture. Entrance is free and open from 26 July – 12 August.
Belgium: At the Belgian House, fans will get the chance to meet athletes from the Belgian Olympic team at the Inner Temple. This historic venue dates back to the 12th century, being one of the four Inns of Court for professional barristers and judges — not to mention “The Da Vinci Code” movie was filmed there.
Brazil: The Official Brazilian house, “Casa Brasil”, will be buzzing with Brazilian culture, music and food. Located at Somerset House, this house will show off the city of Rio de Janeiro, which will be the next host for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016. It is open from 21 July – 8 September.
Czech Republic: The Czech House will be located at the Business Design Centre in Islington from 27 July – 12 August, and most events will be open to the public.
Denmark: Denmark is taking over St Katherine Docks from 27 July – 12 August for “Imagine Denmark”, where a series of events promoting the country with food, drink and fashion shows will get guests into the Danish spirit. Entrance is free.
France: Experience France at its best during the Olympic games and head to Old Billingsgate where there will be live broadcasts of events, interviews, food and great places to shop. It will be open to the public from 9am – 7pm.
Germany: Hosted at The Museum of London Docklands, the German Haus will be bringing an Oktoberfest-type atmosphere to the Olympics, including a Fan Fest where spectators can watch the Games and indulge in traditional German food and drink.
Ireland: The Irish House will host live music alongside a lively bar at The Big Chill House near King’s Cross. The house will also be an out-of-competition base for Irish athletes and their supporters. Open from 27 July – 12 August
Italy: Casa Italia, the Italian House ,will be based at The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. It will feature performances from Italian artists, along with food and wine tastings of regional Italian delicacies.
Japan: Japan will be extending a warm “Thank You” to the world from their base at London County Hall. The free entry event aims to say “Arigato” to nations who offered help and support following last year’s earthquake and tsunami. Movies and photos displays will show the reconstruction of the Tohoku region, plus lots of entertainment and stage performances, as well as a market and sake bar.
Jamaica: The Jamaican House is marking 50 years of Jamaican independence, so expect a huge celebration of Jamaican culture through food, drink and music. Located at the o2. Some events are free and others will require a ticket. 3 August – 12 August
Kenya: Kenya will have its first ever National House this year at East Thames in Stratford. Experience various aspects of Kenyan culture, sports, arts and heritage. Open from 27 July – 12 August.
Korea: The recently named host of the 2018 Winter Games will be showing off all around town, including a house at Royal Thames Yacht Club. Look for traditional Korean music each afternoon, as well as futuristic robots dancing to Korean pop music. Open from 27 July – 12 August.
Monaco: Prince Albert’s personal collection of Olympic torches going back decades is on display at Maison de Monaco at the Haymarket.
Netherlands: The Holland Heineken House is traditionally the best party spot of all the country houses. Alexandra Palace will be painted bright orange and have no shortage of Heineken beer in addition to an impressive array of entertainment.
New Zealand: The Kiwi House will showcase the best food, drink and entertainment New Zealand has to offer. Located in Granary Square, Kings Cross, the venue will offer barbeques, specially imported Moa beer and live Olympic action on big screens. Entry is £5 per day, excluding some ticketed events. Open from 25 July – 12 August.
Nigeria: The Nigerian House will be held at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. It will promote and celebrate Nigeria’s diverse culture and heritage whilst showcasing the country’s film industry in a large auditorium. Admission prices vary. Open from 27 July – 12 August.
Russia: Ice skating in the summer? Believe it or not, Russia will make this happen at Perks Field, Kensington Palace, along with seats for 1,200 spectators. Russia is hosting the next Olympics in Sochi in 2014, and a nightly ice show will highlight Russian athletic prowess.
Slovakia: The Slovak House at 80 Haymarket will feature street dance and theatre performances, live concerts and Slovak beer on tap each day from 12pm to 10am. Open 24 July – 17 August.
South Africa: SA’s Ekhaya Hospitality Centre (Ekhaya is a Zulu word meaning “home”) will be held at Queen Elizabeth Hall at Southbank Centre. It will feature daily cultural exhibitions, dance performances, three large music and comedy concerts, a mini film festival, fashion show and a meet-and-greet with South African athletes. Open from 10am on 27 July to 12 August.
South Pacific: The tourist boards of Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea will transform a pontoon moored at St Katherine’s Dock into a South Pacific island. Look for palm trees, grass skirts, warrior dances and a traditional thatched “bure” (meeting house) as the main setting of the venue. Open from 26 July until 12 August.
Switzerland: The Swiss will be celebrating at Glazier’s hall/”Mug House” Bar/Southwark Cathedral. The building and surrounding area will be transformed into a vibrant Red Zone, with concerts, films, food and food. Open from 20 July – 12 August.
Trinidad & Tobago: Trinbago Village at Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn will be the home base as this pair of islands celebrates 50 years of independence. The festival will include musical performances, theatre and a number of children’s workshops. There will also be booths with local foods. Open 26 July – 25 August (the 50th anniversary of Trini independence).
Too many to choose from and not enough time? Our country house top picks for the last weekend of the games and a radio interview about the country houses are available here.