Faster, Higher, Stronger were the words Baron Pierre De Coubertin decided upon when he described the Olympic oath back in 1894. The custodians today sing from the same hymn sheet, but the overbearing backing track is one of a modern beat, a beat created by big brands that are welcomed into the inner ring(s) to claim their piece of the Olympic pie.
It’s great to see such interest in sport by such powerful brands, but does it not bother people that McDonald’s and Coca-Cola are two of the sponsors of the modern Olympics? Apparently not, the Golden Arches of McDonald’s shine brightest at their largest outlet on the planet, sitting right next to the Olympic stadium – with a queue the length of the marathon course snaking along its sides. A roar from the stadium, mere metres away, booms overhead. That’s some celebration for an order of “extra fries and a bottomless coke”.
Jamie Oliver would not agree with the menu and I was curious to see what else the London Olympics had available to experience outside of the Coke and McDonald’s fiasco in the Olympic Park.
Of course, for 17 days, London was the centre of the Universe – the Olympics the main show. That would bring a voracious multitude of followers looking to grab accreditations and opportunities to experience this sporting extravaganza, as bountifully as possible, all of which would be my competition.
It was going to be quite a bun-fight: a South African looking for access and hook-ups, ahead of the connected Americans, flamboyant South Americans, and exotic islanders.
But 2oceansVibe knows its way around this kind of shindig, and quick as a flash, we scored the holy grail of accreditations – the all-important access to the Oakley Safehouse. I collected it from the concierge in a change of hands even the baton wielding Jamaican relay team would have been proud of. Coveted ticket in hand, we hailed a cab to smash us over too the London Design Museum – the location of the 2012 Oakley Safehouse.
The Safehouse was created in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics when the Olympic village was so far away and in a dodgy part of town. Oakley had wanted their athletes to have a haven, so they provided comfort and invited the athletes to take a load off while the others struggled in the sweaty mayhem. Since then the Safehouse has developed into a plush pad for the Oakley sponsored athletes from all over the world to hang out, chill, reflect, spectate and celebrate.
An ice-cream bar, a salad bar, a cocktail bar and a pastry bar all surround a special eyewear bar. The athletes get to custom make their very own eyewear with any colours and lenses they choose – most loyally use their countries colours which means the US, UK, Korean and French all seemed to end up with similar designs.
It’s an interesting indicator on how even though there are some vast differences in culture, the Olympics brings the dedicated athlete together with those on opposite sides of the world. Bravado is put into perspective in a unique trip outside of their highly focused lives.
It’s fascinating to watch the legends: like three time gold medalist Kerri Walsh (better known as “six feet of sunshine” as she towers above most humans in her space), Lawrence Ndlovu (South African Rowing Gold medalist with the biggest smile at the Games) and Felix Sanchez (Dominican Republics Legendary 400m Gold medalist hurdler; who told us his Grandmother is his inspiration) all taking in the strong vibes of camaraderie and celebration at the same time under one roof.
Humility is the shared virtue here, even when the champagne corks pop in an impromptu congratulatory speech by Ironman Greg Welsh. Welshie gets the athletes to laugh at themselves, and share some spicy details.
Then there are the many rules to keep the athletes in check during the Games. In the Safehouse however, the rules seem to have been left at the Olympic village, and the heartbeat of the Games must be stronger here than anywhere else outside of the actual pool, track, paddock, arena or apparatus.
Massive screens, big enough to show life-size athletes competing live, are mounted on all the walls with enthusiastic eyes either glued to them, or at least glancing at them every couple of seconds. Once the champagne starts flowing a little more gratuitously, and the infectious euphoria of gold medals hanging around so many necks permeates the area, there is little doubt, the Oakley Safehouse is close to the old Barons wishes: “May joy and good fellowship reign, and in this manner, may the Olympic torch pursue its way through ages, increasing friendly understanding among nations, for the good of a humanity always more enthusiastic, more courageous and more pure.”
There was no torch to carry the flame, but the Safehouse was undoubtedly on fire!
Next we visit the Heineken Holland House where they thought I was Ryan Seacrest, and printed that on my accreditation, which went a long way towards sending some alluring smiles I was not accustomed to, but decided to make use of…stay tuned.
All these Oakley custom eyewear options are available at Sunglass Hut in South Africa.
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