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19 April 2014

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Hospitality Focus London 2012: Let the games begin!

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As the Olympics draw nearer, London gets ready to host the crowds wanting a piece of the action, and there are already lots of options for companies wishing to entertain clients or staff. Not sure where to take yours? We’ve got your questions answered.

We’ve got tickets but no hospitality. What are the options?

Forman's Fish Island Forman's_Fish_Island_RESIZED.jpgThere’ll be a pop-up members’ club in a converted Victorian stable just 100 metres from the Olympic Park’s western entrance. The Fringe at Swan Wharf (tel: 07549 158555) will offer daytime use of three floors with 250sqm of private suites, lounges and restaurants for a six-week period – ideal for small or larger groups. Evening entertainment will go on until 2am and the venue is in talks to collaborate with nightclubs including Prince Harry’s favourite, Mahiki. Weekend memberships are available.
Forman’s Fish Island (tel: 020 8525 2390), the salmon-pink building across the canal from the Olympic Stadium, is taking smoked salmon and Champagne breakfast bookings or late dinner reservations for tables of 10. An exhibition celebrating the life of Muhammad Ali, who won Olympic gold in Rome in 1960, will run for six weeks from 19 July. Companies can hire Olympic hospitality chalets on land next to Forman’s or hire one of four Sunseeker yachts moored on the canal outside for groups of 12. Guests can reach both Forman’s and The Fringe via a 30-minute Water Chariot (tel: 0845 680 7026) boat ride from either Limehouse Basin or Tottenham Hale.
The Ultimate Experience (tel: 020 7940 6060), which already has an involvement in nine National Olympic Committee hospitality houses around London, will also be running The House Of Nations in King’s Cross at the 900-capacity Camden Centre. Groups of 10 can book private areas or buy individual tickets, and will benefit from the venue’s 3am licence. The company’s chairman, Mike Kershaw, says: ‘There hasn’t been much evidence of relaxed licensing hours during The Games so venues with late licences will be in huge demand.’

What exclusive-use venue hire packages are still available?

All Star Lanes ALL_STAR_BOWLING_RESIZED.jpgAlbannach restaurant and whisky bar on Trafalgar Square has a ground floor and mezzanine restaurant, a private dining/meeting room and a late-night underground cocktail bar. It is available for exclusive hire for parties of 400 and is a short walk from the beach volleyball at Royal Horseguards. 
If the Olympic action gets you in the mood for a spot of competition, All Star Lanes is offering private rooms for between 50 and 120 people at each of its four bowling alleys, including its newest opening next to the Olympic Park at Westfield, which has 14 bowling lanes and can be exclusively hired for up to 300 guests. 
Imperial College London will have a marquee on the Queen’s Lawn at their South Kensington campus for up to 1,000 guests to enjoy screening events or lavish receptions and dinners. For smaller events of 50-100 people, the college is offering the Victorian splendour of 170 Queen’s Gate or the Edwardian opulence of 58 Prince’s Gate. All packages will be tailored upon request. 
Hedsor House has the Eton Dorney Olympic rowing on its doorstep. Juice Live Communications (tel: 020 8166 8850) is offering daytime and evening packages at the Buckinghamshire stately home with spaces available to host up to 250 guests in the main house and up to 1,500 in a marquee. The offer includes Olympic-themed decor, giant garden games, a celebrity sporting memorabilia auction and live coverage on big screens.

Where else can we watch the Olympic action on a big screen?

Cannon Roof Gardens Cannon_Roof_RESIZED.jpgCannon Bridge Roof Gardens will be hosting screenings of the Opening Ceremony on 27 July and the Closing Ceremony on 12 August. The 500-capacity events, in the glass-fronted venue above the Thames, will feature a barbecue and an open bar and will conclude with a spectacular fireworks display.
It’s The Agency has rooms all over London. They can book you and your guests into The In & Out at No 4. St James’s Square or 28 Portland Place, which is a gorgeous building dating back to 1775. Or, how about a Livery Hall in the Square Mile such as Clothworkers’ Hall, with its marble staircase, or Coopers’ Hall near Liverpool Street station? Many of London’s Livery Halls make stunning event settings and Ironmongers’ Hall has a choice of Olympic screening packages. The venue’s three large reception rooms, plus the Banqueting Hall, are available for up to 130 guests. Alternatively, the venue can arrange smaller screenings for around 30. Choose between buffets, canapés, tapas and bowl food or a seated lunch or dinner.
The 700-seat Pavilion at the Tower of London is available for mixing screenings with private views of the Crown Jewels. Historic Royal Palaces have told organisers The Ultimate Experience (tel: 020 7940 6060) that, if there’s demand from suitable companies, the venue may be used as a stand-alone venue or in conjunction with other reception and dinner venues within the Tower itself. Tables of 10 or more are also available for Special Team GB screening events planned for five days in August, including the Opening Ceremony.

What festivals are taking place around the Olympics?

Blur live Blur_live_RESIZED.jpgThe London 2012 Festival makes up the finale of the Cultural Olympiad and will feature dance, music, theatre, the visual arts, film and digital innovation. It aims to leave a lasting legacy for the arts across the UK. The Festival will open on 21 June and run until 9 September, the last day of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and feature more than 1,000 events, with an estimated audience of more than three million people. Some events will be ticketed, others will be free to attend. Highlights to look out for include BBC Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend and the BT River of Music.
Hyde Park, Victoria Park and Trafalgar Square will host screened Olympic coverage, have-a-go sports participation and live music, and sponsor experiential activity as part of BT London Live. The events will be free to enter, apart from the Opening and Closing Ceremony celebrations at Hyde Park on 27 July and 12 August. ‘London 2012 will not just be about sport – it’s also about people experiencing the amazing atmosphere the games will bring to the capital,’ says BT Retail chief executive Gavin Patterson.
While the Olympic Village will, of course, be buzzing with all things sport, down the road at Hackney Marches, The Scipmylo Festival is taking care of the rest with live music, theatre, comedy, food and other entertainment on show between 27 July to 12 August. In the main Scipmylo village, you’ll find a live music stage, international houses, a food and theatre village, an inflatable games village and the all-important exclusive hospitality village. And if you’re not convinced your group will be keen to leave the sport behind, there’s live screenings of the action to keep everyone happy.
During the first nine days of the games, the museums and organisations of Kensington will come together to stage the Exhibition Road Festival. Based around themes of innovation, risk-taking, creativity and human endeavour, the street activity will feature a nightly ballroom dance, weekend tea dances, daily parades and marching bands, morning yoga sessions and 18th-century board games.

Are official hospitality packages still available?

London ExCell London_ExCell_RESIZED.jpgYes. And the official supplier Prestige Ticketing has even scrapped its complicated linkage scheme, which restricted buyers to purchasing top tickets in batches of 10 or 20 and combining them with the equivalent number of tickets for less popular events. The company, which has sole corporate hospitality rights inside the four main Olympic sites, has now also introduced lower prices for some of the lower category events and introduced shared corporate boxes at the North Greenwich Arena for the basketball finals and gymnastics, as well as exclusive hire options available for SkyView boxes at Wimbledon during the tennis.
As we went to press, Prestige Ticketing’s sales and marketing director Tony Barnard confirmed that packages were now about 70% sold, with ‘a lot of proposals also sitting on people’s desks’, so it’s time to get cracking if you haven’t yet booked. All of the hockey and water polo has already sold out, as have seven out of nine days of diving, three days of the tennis and four days of the beach volleyball at Horseguards Parade. Some days of rowing also have very limited availability.
Thomas Cook (tel: 0844 800 2012), which is the official provider of hotel and ticket packages, also has availability. Its Games Breaks Plus product includes meet and greet hosts, hotel rooms, meeting space, food and drink, plus transpor-tation. Stephen Vaughan, managing director of Thomas Cook’s London 2012 partnership says: ‘All events within the Olympic Park are expected to sell out as you get access to the whole park, while interest in the football will peak when the Team GB squad is announced.’

Where can we go to escape the Olympic crowds? 

Sail Royal Greenwich Sail_Greenwich_RESIZED.jpgTake to the river with newcomer Sail Royal Greenwich (tel: 020 3040 2350). Each day, a fleet of 16 tall ships will cruise along the Thames between the Royal Arsenal Pier in Woolwich, past the North Greenwich Arena and along to Tower Bridge. Onboard hospitality is available for parties of 20-200 and Michelin-starred chefs Richard Corrigan and Ron Blauuw will be doing the cooking.
Many of the Thames boat hire companies are selling out fast but it’s still worth ringing around. We discovered Thames Luxury Charters (tel: 020 7357 7751) still have their four main vessels available for exclusive hire during the Olympics. The largest, the Dixie Queen, can host 625 guests. The smallest is the Edwardian, for upwards of 20 guests. Casino tables, magicians, a disco or a live band can all be accommodated.
Nightclub Chinawhite (tel: 020 7290 0580) and sports management company Elite Sports Properties are bringing their hospitality venture The Last Lap (tel: 07597 973720) to London. Running for 17 nights and guaranteeing access for athletes and ticket-holders, This will be a late-night place to enjoy music from global DJs, private dining in the Chinawhite restaurant for up to 45 seated guests and VIP rooms for up to 75, with food and drink packages also available.
Several London attractions are offering after-work deals to encourage commuters away from transport hotspots. The offers include £10 theatre tickets through the Society of London Theatre, late-night and early-morning VIP tours at Madame Tussauds (tel: 020 7487 0224), and late-night openings at the Sanctuary Spa in Covent Garden (tel: 0844 875 8447).


This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events, spring 2012.


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