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London 2012 - Hospitality Houses: Casa Brasil (Brazil House) & Belgium House

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by David Dragonetti (subscribe)
I love politics (I do realize that there aren't many people like me) and a history buff who also likes nothing better than watching a live comedy.
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Seemingly every other person had one. Walking along embankment, half the population of London was now looking at those blue tourist maps that were being given out by that army of Olympic volunteers which had all the key sporting venues on them. Plus all these people looked happy, a tell tale sign if ever there was one that they weren't Londoner's. So where were my fellow city folk? . At home on one massive Olympic sized "sickie" or working from home which really meant a few hours work followed by many more hours watching Jeremy Kyle. Or were they even abroad? A few people I know had incredibly decided to "escape" this once in a lifetime fantastic event and leave the UK.

That made me think that if perhaps millions of them were away to be replaced by millions of tourists what would happen if we had another volcanic ash cloud scenario with all air transport halted?. All those Londoners would be stuck somewhere and going mad on a sunny beach because they have nothing to moan about, while London itself was now run by 205 competing nations. The city would become the most insane but also the most exciting place to live on earth.

Admittedly I was not too excited about the sporting side of the Olympics, I did like the cycling plus East London was getting an awesome Velodrome but then I only could enjoy that when things returned to normal and everyone had gone back home (Volcanoes permitting). For me it was all the cultural events and fringe theatre music events that were popping up everywhere. Plus there were the numerous hospitality houses of various competing nations where a visitor could go and enjoy all the best bits that a country had to offer.

On Tuesday I thus decided to head for the House of Belgium, near Temple, because of course Belgium is famous not only for having lots of battlefields, the European union and Hercule Poirot, but most importantly of all, it has chocolate. I intended to be there some considerable time repeatedly sampling what I thought they would have laying about on tables, but after paying about five pound to get in I found nothing. A beautiful building a bar and a café but no chocolate. The only thing worth mentioning about the house of Belgium was the chance to ride numerous static bicycles that had a TV screen in front of them to make you feel you were riding through Belgium while of course, looking desperately for chocolate!

The House of France had a permanent long queue, which was not surprising considering about half a million French people live in London, I thus decided to walk from Belgium to the House of Brazil a short distance away in Somerset House. Rio de Janerio is going to be the home of the 2016 Games and this would probably account why the House of Brazil looked and felt miles better than most hospitality houses I was to visit.

On entering I thought for some reason of the Victorian Great Exhibition in Crystal palace over a hundred years ago. England then (arguably unlike now) knew its place in the world and was proud and dynamic. Now it was Brazil's turn, like China's, to take global centre stage. Overtaking Britain as an economy and now hosting the next Olympics the only way was up for Brazil. I don't know who ultimately decides which nation gets to show itself off in which property round London, but Brazil had a great location and venue in Somerset House and they used the large rooms fully to their advantage with interesting abstract artwork and wall videos showing the wonderful beauty of Brazil, how they are preparing for the Olympics, as well as some youthful social commentary. It almost felt a bit like going through Tate Modern and you just didn't really know what to expect round the next corner. Personally I wanted to see something on the Amazon Rainforest and discover if the Brazilians were beginning to value it or just hell bent on chopping it all down for cattle grazing. I guess though, like all host Olympic nations, you do your very best to hide the dirty laundry. The world is watching and you don't really want them to see too much.

House of Belgium is open to the 12th of August and the House of Brazil until the 12th of September.
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Why? Belgium to Brazil in 25 Minutes
When: House of Belgium is open to the 12th of August and the House of Brazil until the 12th of September.
Where: Casa Brasil - Somerset House
Belgian House - Inner Temple
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