Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Two Golds !!!!!!!! And Qatar.




Yay! Two golds! Forgive me for being patriotic, I don't usually go over the top like this... but I'm so proud of the women's rowers, Heather Stanning and Helen Glover, (Helen only took the sport up four years ago). And, cyclist Bradley Wiggins, first Englishman ever to win the Tour de France and the holder of more gold medals than any other Englishman, I heard someone say. (I haven't checked that)

The two golds were even worth the damp behind I got as I sat down on some outdoor chairs to watch one of the many screens beaming the Olympics in Bayt Qatar, next to the Savoy Hotel. "Bayt" means house or home, and this is where the emirate of Qatar hosts athletes, journalists and visitors during the Games.

Most Qatar money comes from oil, but it's branching out into tourism. It's playing up its difference from its neighbours. Not as modernized as shopping-crazy Dubai, and less intolerant about women than Saudi Arabia, and so on. And talking of this, there was a large photographic display of Qatari female athletes, at which one of our party declared loudly, "This is all just lip service! How hypocritical!"

And it is the first year Qatar's had Olympic women, that's true. But it is trying to improve, with three women competing this year, including shooter Bahiya al-Hamad as a flag carrier at the opening ceremony. >Part of the reason, I'd guess, is that Qatar wants to get itself into a fit state to bid for the 2022 Olympics, and it won't win if other countries don't like its attitude to women.

Al-Jazeera (which is bacled by Qatar) has a media centre in the house, and there were enormous screens everywhere, many tuned to live events. In the rather glamorous bar, we had cucumber smoothies (there was no alcohol on offer, which is not unusual in Muslim places). We were invited also to try a BATAK fitness training machine, which tests the reactions and is used a lot by racing drivers.

Here's a demo of the machine. It wasn't the one we saw but it saves me having to describe how to use it. It was surprisingly good fun



We also saw various architectural models of new developments in the Qatari capital, Doha. We didn't get a press kit at the time, so I'm afraid I can't tell you anything about them - and that, too, is why I don't know what kind of building this is, let alone exactly where it is. What do you think?


A sports stadium, I think. Are those pools around it? (A prize of a Qatar enamelled pin to anyone who offers the most convincing answer.)

There was a very comfortable little performance space, illuminated in brilliant colours...like the cosiest kind of private cinema. Here, you see the bandstand is set up. They're running entertainments and showing films to the general public during the games, as they seem proud of their film industry.


The general public can visit the ground floor of Bayt Qatar beween 3 pm and 3 am every day, free. THey're only allowed on the ground floor, but we were taken to the top of the building, to the white-carpeted restaurant. (Imagine, a restaurant with white carpet.) All the food comes from Harrods, which is now Qatari owned. Yes, for a country of just three quarters of a million, they are VERY rich).

My photo has
come out looking pink in this picture, but it was really dazzling white. It won't be used till 9 PM tonight, as it's Ramadan and many Muslims don't eat at all during the daylight hours.




Then we climbed even higher,up a spiral staircase to a rooftop garden with wonderful views over the Thames. And that is when I got my wet behind. Because I just HAD to leave the group for a few moments to watch the cycling and see if I could cheer Wiggo on.

So I sat on a red divan like the one below. They're wonderful for lounging in the open air, but are not really suitable for England's climate....

Oh, they were wet!

But the view was impressive, with St. Pauls, the Gherkin and the Thames.

There are all kinds of interesting things to see around London at the moment, and I'll post some more soon. When I'm not glued to the television watching to see if we get another gold, that is.

PS ... if you are in London and want to go along to Bayt Qatar, the address is 2 Savoy Place, London WC2R 0BL. I believe they have a lady henna-ing hands and people serving special Qatari tea in their "souk" area :)

47 comments:

  1. What a place..congratulations to your countrymen/women. That's quite expected, that patriotism. Your Olympic report give a great viewpoint. I thank you for that. As to that building. I think those are blue color reflective panels..a very hot, sunny area. It would be possible they could use them as solar collectors, to help power the building. Massive, colorful and rather low..only a few (5-10) levels, based upon the size of autos.

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  2. I was invited to the Kenyan Olympic base, but sadly I wasn't in London to take up their offer. Looks like you had fun :-)

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  3. You lead such a fascinating life! Truly, you do. :):)

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  4. I've been rooting for Britain and hoping they'd do well, and I was extremely pleased to see them win these medals. Glad you're having such a good time.

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  5. Oh I think you get show you patriotism and brag a little on your olympians. I'm cheering for you as well as the USA. Almost all of our viewing is delayed...I try not to read the spoilers. What an interesting place to visit. Everything looks lovely.

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  6. I enjoyed seeing Olympic happenitougherough your eyes. Congratulations to your Brit winners. I watched the Briish men's gymnastic team. They did very well . . . it is only right you are cheering for YOUR people.

    White carpet, in fact ALL white for doing doesn't seem to foster relaxation . . . , looks lovely though!

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  7. My family are delighted by the medal winners. :)

    Love the white restaurant. Looks very interesting. Glad you had fun, even if you got a wet bum!

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  8. I couldn't even recognise it as a building. I thought it was a piece of artwork. I had another look. I see honeycombes. Is it a beehive?

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  9. The summer Olympics in a Muslim state would be interesting to say the least especially with the outfits that the female beach volleyball players wear! There was a news article here about a Muslim woman who wanted to wear her scarf as she participated in a sport (I believe it was Judo) or she wouldn't participate (according to her dad). The head scarf was against the rules for safety reasons which left me wondering why she showed up if she knew this. But could you imagine what it would be like if it all was reverse (due to it being held in a country like Qatar) and women would have to wear a burka? Yea, it would be an interesting sight.
    As for the mystery picture, I thought it was a very nice sculpture/art work before I read the description. As to what it could be, it reminds me of the drive in movie theater that was so popular back in the 60's.

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  10. Oh Jenny it's far more exciting, and informative/interesting to check in here at your Blog rather than the TV for my Olympic fix!! Wonderful.

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  11. I remember reading awhile back that Qatar was building modular stadiums that they could break down in size & also transport to other countries. I think they are making a bid for the Soccer World Cup. I agree they are probably solar panels to power the building. Probably built on an island or peninsula out on the water.

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  12. It looks like a sports arena to me...or maybe even a training facility. Very pretty but not near as nice as that white dining room. It's beautiful!

    You have really shown us so much again today and I thank you!

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  13. Qatar has one of the world's biggest off-shore gas fields. This, together with oil reserves, gives its citizens the greatest income per capita of any nation on earth. Development was restricted by the present emir's father and by indecision among local sheikhs as to who owned the valuable land around West Bay in central Doha. In 1977 I wrote about Qatar in my book The Gulf States and Oman-the first business and travel book on the Arab States of the Gulf. It used to be a pleasant old backwater but under the current ruler Sheikh Hamad, while it is not as developed as either Abu Dhabi or Dubai, progress has been astonishing. Of course Qatar has the funds to buy anything it wants...mineral wealth being some compensation for the tedious landscape--rough cobble conglomerate covers most of the country which is flat except for giant sand dunes in the south, location of the specacular "inland sea" (a picture of this is on the front page of my website) www.copix.co.uk As to whether you might pay a visit Jenny, no reason not to - except in mid-summer, the weather is sweet, Qataris are very likeable people exhibiting none of the arrogance of some of their GCC neighbours. Enjoy!

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  14. Congrats to your countrymen (and women) on their medal haul. :)

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  15. Congratulations to your medalists!

    Though some of my family comes from that part of the world, i have little interest in actually visiting the Middle East. Even if they are getting "a little bit" better about their attitudes toward women.

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  16. Oh, this is gorgeous! That dining room! A fascinating post. And I'm glad you could catch the Olympics. I was sneaking in the time trial to route for Wiggo at my office today. I don't think I was caught, but would it matter? Not a whit!

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  17. You've been having some very interesting Olympic adventures! I was interested to learn that "bayt" means house in Arabic...it's the same word in Hebrew. Of course, that makes sense as the two languages are very closely related.

    And I'd like to send congratulations for the Gold Medals Britain has won! I think that is great and hope some others might be forthcoming.

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  18. So many of us here in the US are also cheering for you Brits.

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  19. Your observations and images are far more interesting than those of the Olympic commentators, and yes, it is okay to be a bit over the top about medal winners!

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  20. Qatar is indeed oil rich! It is a 'friend' of Britain & the west, which is why there is little comment on how they repress their opposition groups (Tough repression Middle East style). Being Sunni they pay for the 'rebels' in Syria alongside Saudi. The women are often well educated but there are restrictions (men suffer those also everywhere of course). After Brazil and Russia Qatar will host the World Cup (in 120% of heat?) and will want the Olympics also. If you go stay with the guided tour they give and let the 'News; journalists ask the cheeky questions. They are used to being jailed. Worth a look mind.

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  21. I forgot to say what a marvellous tour that was! You do these real well! And if you check the BBC World Service girls re those countries you would learn much/ Lyse Loucet and her like travel there often and give good info.

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  22. enjoyed this post, Jenny. Yes, seven medals now for Bradley Wiggins. He's a real Olympiad. I was so excited watching the girls row to victory.

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  23. Hello Jenny:
    We were most interested to read of your experiences at the Qatar 'House', some of which did indeed seem most odd.

    Your enthusiasm for the Gold Medal winners at the Olympics is infectious, even though we do not share any particular interest in the Games. But we are very conscious of the hours and hours of exceedingly hard work put in by all the competitors.

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  24. Great post. I had a stopover in Qatar on my last trip to Nepal, but no time to leave the airport. Now I see that I should have done. Ah well, next time ...

    (And the Olympics - go girls. It's great to see our women doing as well as the men. And I'm not even into the Olympics!)

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  25. Hi, Jenny. Congratulations on winning the Gold medals! The path to glory must have been long and painful. Patriotism is welcome when it comes to sportive events. I like to see athletes whose joys and confidence are shining through their smiles when they look up at their national flag. Like many people I like those who fight with fighting spirit and sportsmanship, and “deliberate losing” to win finally is just sad. Regarding women athlete, Japan sent more women athletes than men to London. Thanks for the introducing Qatar house. It is interesting to know something about Olympics other than games.

    Yoko

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  26. OMG! What a fabulous looking place. My daughter's now a London lass - I'll pass on the address. She'd be up for it I'm sure!

    YAY! Medals! I thought Wiggins was a character!

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  27. oooh wonderful, I must get over there in the next few days. It's a great time to be in London and especially as the chaos that was predicted has not happened.

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  28. Very interesting to read about the Qatar house. I'm not a big sports fan but admit I get caught up in the excitement of the Olympics.

    Darla

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  29. The restaurant looks great! Ive been sadly lacking olympics games update. Good to learn about it in your site!! Cheers!

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  30. Oh, how wonderfully luxurious it all looks...

    The company I work for is global with a large presence in Dubai. We do week-long training sessions there and can only send male presenters and use materials showing only men. I still think it's weird.

    Pearl

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  31. Congratulations on your country's medal winners! It is interesting to learn about other cultures and thanks for the report about Qatar.

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  32. Doesn't matter who holds the 2022 Olympics, or how soon they start rehearsing; they can't beat our opening ceremony.

    Sorry. No idea where this blind patriotism is coming from lately.

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  33. I hadn't seen an Olympic medal up close before, always wondered what they looked like. And now I know, thank you!

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  34. I hadn't seen one either, Sprinkles, till now! :) Yes, Macy, I am finding hidden reserves of patriotism too... Pearl, your company should really send women out, I think Saudi is the only country where it is really impossible. Any women sent out might not have a very easy time though. I have to say this attitude to women makes my blood boil. I have to say that in the material around the Qatari house there were several women shown in (non-sporting) positions of authority, Adullamite, clearly respected and doing a good job. Not all Muslim countries (even all Gulf countries) are like Saudi, although it is fair to say that women in even the more liberal countries generally live more restricted lives than here. But the ones like that whom I have met are definitely not lacking in confidence and self esteem. The awful thing is when the fanatics shut these bright, intelligent women away and treat them like nothing. Ghastly what happened to many women in Iran for instance, years ago.

    @Mamma has spoken (jeez, must check your blog again to see if I can find your name, feels strange calling you Mamma :D) I think that the burka is among other things also a "Modesty" issue, a bit like certain of our girls would choose not to wear very revealing outfits, even if it improved their Olympic performance (the original Greek games were held naked - yikes!!) I haven't followed the story of the woman in the burka but if she knew it wasn't allowed I agree there doesn't seem much point in showing up, that is just turning it into an issue, surely. I am sure competing in a burka would be a handicap - I don't know how much of one but surely it will be one when results are measured in fractions of a second. Thanks, Christine, for your long and fascinating comment. I know that you are a real expert on the Middle East and my knowledge is a fraction of yours, so it is very interesting to hear what you have to say. Helena, tell your daughter that they have some cool performances etc. going on in the house - free!! Yoko, I agree with you and I think that the badminton was dispiriting, to say the least. Jeanie, I hope you didn't get caught! :D
    Sara, my very favourite place in all of Syria is Beit Jabri, (Jabri House) in Damascus, a wonderful cafe and meeting place, converted from an old mansion and hidden in a maze of alleyways. It's so awful thinking about Syria right now that I don't feel like writing about Beit Jabri but I have had it in my mind to do so just to celebrate it, and I hope not memorialize it. As for the mystery building, solar collectors sounds feasible to me, too. I might try googling the picture to see whether I can find a caption for it.
    Thanks as ever for the excellent and interesting and thought provoking comments.

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  35. A remarkable post, mixing interest and beauty in equal proportions. Thanks very much for this, I was totally absorbed by it.

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  36. What a fabulous place, but I wonder why they didn't issue press kits. I hope your behind has dried out now.

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  37. RYC: thanks for pointing out the audio problem; I was unaware. It's actually Google's fault, but I think I've corrected the problem on my most recent post (I'll have to go back and edit all the other posts to fix them).

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  38. Love your website. I am your newest follower, and invite you to join my blog as well. http://thedisconnectedwriter.blogspot.com/

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  39. wow...how cool to be you and be there!! my kids are glued to the screen...rooting and cheering for people I never heard of...fun to watch really!

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  40. I'm sorry to say I didn't watch any of the Olympics -- so busy this time of year --but I'm happy for all the men and women that competed, even if they didn't bring home a medal.

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  41. Bradley Wiggins is awesome... glad you mentioned him.

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  42. I was so sorry the Qatar female athlete pulled a hamstring within a few yards of starting her sprint the other day. I would have loved her to have done well but even by being there and competing she's a gold medal winner for me!

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  43. I think it's quite healthy patriotism to root for athletes of your own country. Congratulations on gold medals! Tonight our male soccer team got through to a semifinal.
    How I am proud of them!
    Speaking of Harrods, my niece who lived in London for five years gave me a green enamelled bag with the name of Harrods on. I liked it.

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  44. CJ/Scriptor Senex has a real interest in the Olympics so I've been watching some of it simply because it's been on. I've just seen Jessica Innes win the Heptathlon and it would be a very unfeeling person who didn't get carried away by that.

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  45. Very interesting Jenny. It would be nice to visit the Qatar site. Congratulations on your 29 medals at the Games. Well done Britain! (NZ's doing OK too)

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  46. Jenny, thanks for sharing this.....wet behind and all!!
    Those cucumber smoothies sound great....did you enjoy?

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  47. Hi Jenny,
    The mystery building you refer to is the stadium that will be used for the opening ceremony and the final match of the FIFA World Cup in 2022.
    Qatar are bidding for the 2024 Olymic Games as well.
    Great article, great to ear you enjoye your visit there.

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