Czech House in Islington pulls in the crowds

Photo: ČTK

Thousands of people – Czechs and Londoners alike – have come to the Czech House in London since the start of the London Olympics. Inaugurated on Friday by President Václav Klaus, the venue offers Czech music, art, food, beer and other attractions as well as a chance to chat to some of the athletes competing in the games.

Václav Klaus in front of the Czech House in Islington,  photo: ČTK
The band Toxique was one of the highlights of the opening programme at the Czech House in Islington. Crowds of people have since visited the venue, some of them no doubt lured by the instant hit at London’s Olympic-themed art scene, the push-up bus by David Černý, others by Pilsner Urquell on tap inside the house. The Czech ambassador to the UK, Michael Žantovský, opened the venue along with President Klaus on Friday.

“It’s a grand design, and a great piece of work, and I think that for the next two week, it will be the centre of cultural and social life in Islington, and I think it will make us proud.

Jilani Chowdhury,  photo: Archive of Islington
“We know that most countries, certainly most European countries, opened some kind of Olympic houses in London for the duration of the Games, and I think it will be very interesting to compare notes after the Olympics about the various designs.”

The Czech house is located at the Angel area in the London borough of Islington. The mayor of Islington, Jilani Chowdhury, took part in the opening ceremony, and told Radio Prague he was happy to host the Czechs.

“I’m very pleased that the Czech Republic chose Islington as their base. We have wonderful and very hospitable people here who welcome everyone, so I’m very pleased to see them here. Islington is one of the diverse boroughs of London; 40 percent of its population is other than white, and it has a history of people coming here from around the world. So that’s typical for Islington.”

Islington,  photo: Skyring,  Creative Commons 3.0
One of Islington’s residents who came to have a look at what the Czechs were doing was a Second World War veteran William Miwetts, MBE.

“This is fantastic, we thoroughly enjoyed it. But I was talking to people about what this place was 80 years ago – do you know? It was an old circus, and then it was a dairy market, and we used to come here for the dairies. There was a cattle marker here, too, along the whole street up to the slaughterhouses.”

Some members of the Czech Republic’s Olympic Team also visited the Czech House ahead of their events. One of them was the basketball player Jana Veselá who came ahead of the team’s opening game against China.

“We have mainly been practising; we have spent most of the time in the Olympic Village and we don’t have that much free time but I hope that during the tournament, we will more opportunities to explore London.”

Jana Veselá  (right),  photo: ČTK
How do you realistically see the chances of the Czech women’s basketball team at the Games?

“Well, the main goal for us is for sure to advance to the quarterfinals. That’s the goal.”

Since the start of the Olympics, the Czech House has seen a lot of action but not medal celebrations yet. But fans hope they will yet have a chance to cheer for the champions before the Games’ end.