Three other Headstarters and I were set a task to travel around London for the day while visiting as many Olympics countries’ houses as we could. We would see what the venues were like and try to establish which country best represented themselves here in London during the Games.
After visiting six countries’ houses from four different continents in seven hours, we feel we have travelled the world. We travelled to Switzerland, France, South Africa, Brazil, Qatar and finally Ireland. Each house had something unique to offer which included their culture, history and sport.
Our group concluded that the French house was the best sports fan experience for the nation. However we felt we were unwelcomed and isolated as Brits and as young journalists as we struggled to interview anyone.
South Africa presented a great display of national art, music and culture. The atmosphere was very quiet but the few people that were there were very proud of their nation. They failed to represent their sporting side though, with very few memorials or presentations displaying sporting values or history.
Brazil had the most spectacular display of culture and strongest sense of national identity, as well as attendance. Many people of a variety of ages indulged in what Casa Brasil had to offer.
We were then very pleasantly and unexpectedly surprised by Qatar’s relaxed and luxurious experience. On arrival we were treated to free drinks at the sports bar while watching live action from the Games. Here, we found out the building cost tens of millions of pounds to rent, renovate and show case to the public for free! Shahan Akkawi, Head of Media, very kindly gave us a private tour educating us on Qatar’s sporting history and the development of their sustainable infrastructure. We also went on the roof garden with the most amazing view of central London’s skyline. There was also a theatre and lots of other interesting stuff going on. This got me very excited for what could happen in Qatar’s 2022 World Cup.
Some nations avoided the stereotypes, however the Irish lived up to theirs, by setting up base in a pub. The Irish came out in full force to support their own though, and it was a warm and lively atmosphere as you would expect.
We were welcomed by the Swiss stereotypes of chocolate, cheese and an out door climbing wall. From an interview with a Swiss representative, we found out that the Swiss were trying to challenge the stereotype though with out door concerts, the gaming facilities as well as a late night club, all open to the public for free. We concluded that this House was the most fun, friendly and it’s free. They were also so co-operative and gave us a mini tour and let us into the closed bar to their director of house, Manuel Salchli. Here’s the interview: