On the Town - Holland House in High Spirits; Olympic Exhibitions; Taste of Africa

(ATR) Away from the hustle and bustle of Olympic Park, Around the Rings is also sampling the cultural delights that London has to offer around the sporting action taking place.

Holland House in High Spirits

There was no better place in London to celebrate Dutch golden girl Marianne Voss’s dramatic road race triumph than in the Holland Heineken House in historic Alexandra Palace.

The north London landmark offers stunning panoramic views across London, but inside the scene was a sea of orange as the traditionally colorful and passionate fans cheered their national hero. Fittingly, a huge image of her celebrating face is the first sight to greet visitors as they enter the building.

It's a year of celebration for the Holland Heineken House, which is marking its 20th anniversary having first opened its doors to Olympic followers in Barcelona in 1992. The House is run in partnership between the Netherlands Olympic Committee and the country’s world famous Heineken brewery.

A welcoming message from Andre Bolhuis, chairman of the NOC, and Philip de Ridder, president of Heineken, says: "Over the past 20 years national sportsmen and women – as well as sports lovers – have always experienced Holland Heineken House as a homecoming during the Olympic Games. Together we all form a ‘team of Orange’ and create a ‘home away from home’ for everyone who visits our national house."

Visitors get the chance to emulate Voss by taking a cycling challenge, test their skills on a rowing machine or simply sample the delights of the host company while watching Dutch television on one of two big screens.

Francis Van As visited the Dutch House in Beijing where, as now, he was supporing his daughter Naomi who is part of the Netherlands women’s hockey team.

"This is a fantastic old building, quite a special place to have the Heineken House. It is always a special place. This house is even bigger than the one in 2008. It is massive," he enthused, with a broad smile following the 3-0 victory of his daughter’s side against neighbors and rivals earlier in the day.

His daughter struck gold in Beijing, beating hosts China in the final, and hopes are high the success will be repeated. The hundreds of Dutch sports lovers present in the Holland Heineken House certainly hope there will be many more golden moments to celebrate. If it looks like they will win, the phrase "if you can’t beat them, join them" springs to mind – but make sure you wear orange!

The Olympic Journey – at the Royal Opera House

A great way to celebrate the start of the Games is to revisit the history of the whole event. BP and the Royal Opera House have joined with the Olympic Museum to create a free exhibition telling the Olympic story all the way from ancient times to London 2012.

The exhibition takes the visitor from ancient Greece, the home of the Olympic Games, right through to the vision of Pierre de Coubertin, who revived the Games hundreds of years later.

Based in the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, the experience includes stories and inspirational achievements of iconic Olympic athletes over the last hundred years of Olympic history. The experience features all of the Olympic medals and Torches of the modern Games.

"The Olympic Journey: The Story of the Games" will only run for the duration of the Olympic Games, ending on August 12.

Road to 2012

You may then want to familiarize yourself with the story of London 2012 in a visually aesthetic way.

If so, then the National Portrait Gallery on the corner of Trafalgar Square currently houses the ‘BT Road to 2012’ exhibition. Specially commissioned photographs and portraits of athletes, organizers and behind-the-scenes insights tell the visual story of how London came to be ready to host the Games.

The portraits feature artistic shots of prominent figures such as Boris Johnson, Sebastian Coe and Danny Boyle, whose opening ceremony on Friday night drew high praise from people around the world.

The exhibition is free and will run until after the Paralympics finish in September.

Africa Village Downtown London

The Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa is inviting Olympic followers to join in the African spirit in their own village in London.

"Africa Village", as it is known, consists of Africa House and Africa Land, which is free and open to the public to enjoy different aspects of African culture.

Daily events will be taking place at the Kensington location – and it's the first time that ANOCA has had a venue at an Olympic Games.

The site also includes big screens that will feature the African athletes as well as honoring a different African country every day:

Monday 30th July: NIGERIA

Tuesday 31st July: ALGERIA

Wednesday 1st August: ETHIOPIA

Thursday 2nd August: CAMEROON

Friday 3rd August: RWANDA

Saturday 4th August: EGYPT

Sunday 5th August: GABON

Monday 6th August: LYBIA

Tuesday 7th August: COTE D’IVOIRE

Wednesday 8th August: MOROCCO

Thursday 9th August: BOTSWANA

Friday 10th August: TUNISIA

Saturday 11th August: ETHIOPIA

Sunday 12th August: Closing Ceremony live on screen

Everyday Hosts performers on stage:

Hamed Sais and his band from Morocco

Zohra Janef from Tunisia

Ethiopian Dancers from Addis-Ababa

Arabic Dance from the Arabian Dance Theatre of Cairo, Egypt

Reported by Matt Horn and Christian Radnedge

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