Located at historic Trafalgar Square, Canada House hosts the cultural, educational and diplomatic portions of the Canadian High Commission. After having been closed since December of 2010 to undergo extensive renovations, the building has now been reopened to function as the epicenter of the country’s efforts during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
The building, completed in 1827, was purchased by Canada in 1923. During the Blitz of London in World War II, a German bomb fell close to the structure and near to future Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. At the time, Pearson was the secretary to the High Commissioner — the Rt. Hon. Vincent Massey, who would be a future Governor-General.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was on hand for the official designation of “Canada Olympic House” from July 27 to August 12. Harper declared the facility will be a “home from home” for the country’s athletes and their families, where they can receive a wide range of services from directions to “moral support.”
The unveiling was timed to coincide with the Prime Minister’s visit during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II. The ceremony was also attended by Canadian Olympic Committee president Marcel Aubut and Gordon Campbell, Canada’s High Commissioner in the UK. Campbell is used to being at Olympic announcements, having been the Premier of British Columbia during the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler.
At the same press conference, Harper introduced members of Canada’s table tennis contingent for the Olympics. He even picked up a paddle himself and played against team captain Mo Zhang, but was no match for Chinese-born player who resides in Ottawa. She qualified for these Olympics with a victory at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
It’s unclear from reports whether Canada Olympic House has been prepared to receive overnight guests, however, but from all accounts it shouldn’t be difficult to find a hotel room in London — if cost is not an issue, that is. Bookings for July and August are down 35 percent from the previous year in the London area; it appears many would-be tourists are choosing other holiday destinations out of concern for congestion, higher prices and increased security that an Olympic Summer Games generally brings.
A report in the Guardian newspaper found that food and drinks to be offered at the various Olympic events at the Stratford Park site will cost at least double that of locations elsewhere in the capital. Spectators will not even be allowed to bring bottles of water with them, but they will apparently be permitted to bring empty bottles into the venues and fill them at free drinking fountains. It appears that the economic games have already begun.
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