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!
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 :)