By Tony Ubani in London
The Olympic finishing line is almost in sight. With just a few events to go, athletes and Londoners alike are set for the mother-of-all celebrations – a weekend of gold-medal parties and a pop-tastic closing ceremony.
It’s about time, say some social observers, who claim that London’s party scene has been muted during the games, dragged down by economic recession and a downturn in central London businesses as a result of the games further east.
Britain’s economic gloom means nightclubs and pop-up venues have had to work to lure athletes and celebrities. But they are giving thanks for Olympic swimmers, whose events ended last weekend, leaving them free to party.
The paparazzi were also thankful, filling newspaper pages with party-hardy Olympians.
U.S. champion Michael Phelps – who ended his Olympic career with 22 medals, 18 of them gold- has been spotted in London’s Soho nightlife district.
Teammate Ryan Lochte was photographed leaving the Chinawhite nightclub – long a favorite of partying British royalty. This time around, the club has drawn athletes in droves by offering gold medalists a free Golden Cocktail – a concoction of champagne, cognac and real gold flakes priced, for the rest of us, at 2,012 pounds ($3,150).
Lochte emerged looking a bit bleary-eyed, but it could have been the chlorine.
Zara Phillips, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II and a member of Britain’s silver medal-winning equestrian eventing team, was spotted drinking champagne and dancing shoeless at the club.
“I’ve heard it’s not been easy for a lot of venues in London, but we’ve been very lucky,” said Chinawhite club manager James Spallone.
He said the venue was designed to be “a safe haven for athletes to let their hair down.”
“They are amongst their peers. They know everybody,” he said. “It’s fun, It’s like a prom.”
Swimmers have not been the only athletes blowing off steam.
Cyclist Bradley Wiggins tweeted pictures of himself celebrating with a drink in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral after winning gold in the road race. “Getting wasted,” he tweeted.
Another cyclist – 20-year-old Gijs van Hoecke of Belgium – was sent home after photos appeared of him looking very drunk while leaving a London nightclub.
Still, that was all prologue to the final weekend’s blowout, which certainly won’t be confined to Olympic athletes.
Some of the action will center on national hospitality houses set up by the Dutch, the Russians and the French, among others. A lucky elite, however, will take to the water for a handful of yacht parties.
Nearly a dozen of the world’s most luxurious vessels, including the 413-foot (126-meter) Octopus, owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, are docked in east London near the Olympic site.
“It’s going to be a big party, no doubt,” said Benjamin Sutton, director of communications for “superyacht concierge service” MGMT.
“Security is tight, much like any VIP event,” Sutton added.