Globe-Trotter

By Collins, Lauren | The New Yorker, August 13, 2012 | Go to article overview

Globe-Trotter


Collins, Lauren, The New Yorker


Even the most avid Anglophile could tire of Pimm's cups and Union Jacks in the course of two weeks. By the time the Olympic cauldron is snuffed, on August 12th, London expects to have hosted half a million foreign visitors, from more than two hundred countries. To make them feel at home, many delegations have established hospitality houses, where a traveller can cheer on his team in the company of compatriots. Taken together, they make up a sort of Epcot-on-the-Thames. Last week, a micro-adventurer set herself an endurance event: to check out as many maisons and bayts and casas as possible in one day.

Morning dawned in Denmark, which was a pavilion at the St. Katharine Docks. There was a model of Olympic Park, which had taken two hundred and fifty thousand Legos to build. Nearby stood a replica of a Danish holiday cottage. Its inhabitant was Ib Schifter Schou, who is one of Denmark's most prominent radio hosts. He said that his wife had persuaded him to make the trip. "She said, 'There will be beer, there will be hot dogs, there will be a wide-screen TV.' So I said yes." A historical exhibit aboard the Maja, a hundred-and-forty-foot schooner, explained that, in 1940, sixty-five hundred tons of Danish bacon were lost at sea.

To Austria! And into the yodelling booth, with Maritta from Ischgl. "I am your yodelling coach," she said. "You know how to yodelling?" She and the adventurer chose a backbeat ("Apres-Ski") and a few effects (cowbell, boing, jucheiza): "Ho la ho la ho la drudl jo."

On a deck with a view of the Tower of London, some non-Austrian-looking office workers stood drinking pints of Steigl. They had already got their pictures taken on the ski lift--there were goggles and everything--against a painted Tyrolean backdrop.

"You're gonna fall asleep now," one of them said, when asked what they did for a living. "Employee benefits."

France, at Old Billingsgate, the former fish market, was a corporate scene. But Switzerland had erected a climbing wall in the shadow of Southwark Cathedral. Nice spread. Appenzeller on tap, the air funky with the smell of raclette. Across the river, Qatar had taken over the Institution of Engineering and Technology, a grand neoclassical venue, and rebuilt the interior as a souk, with wood-beamed ceilings and pressed-tin lanterns, plus an area called the Al Jazeera Sports Lounge. Check-in was performed by iPad.

Qatar was holding a press conference, to publicize Aspire4Sport, its athletics initiative. …

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