Czech House in London ready to receive Olympic visitors

David Černý and his 'London Booster', photo: CTK

With just a day remaining to the start of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the Czech House is getting ready to receive its first visitors. Located in the trendy area of Islington, the Czech House will offer a series of programmes including concerts, exhibits and film screenings, as well as opportunities to meet some of the Czech athletes competing in the Games. But even before the Games began, the venue is already drawing crowds of people who come to see one of the most original artifacts dedicated to the 2012 Olympics – a red double-decker bus doing push-ups. Jan Richter reports from London.

David Černý and his 'London Booster',  photo: CTK
The London Booster, a 1957 red double-decker bus fitted with giant hydraulic arms, is doing push-ups in front of the Czech House in Islington. Since its installation on Monday, the ingenuous sculpture has become a huge hit with Londoners and visitors to the Games alike. I asked some of the people who stopped to take a look about what they made of it.

“Interesting, very interesting. We haven’t seen anything like it before. It’s very good.”

“I think it’s amazing actually. It’s a really good compliment to the UK buses but a nice, quirky thing. I like it.”

“It’s amazing. Just come here with my boy. He saw it on the news yesterday so I just brought him to come and watch it.”

So how do you like it?

“It’s brilliant. I like the handle when it goes up and down.”

The creator of the London Booster, Czech artist David Černý says he wanted to poke a little fun at the games, and sports in general.

Czech House in London,  visualisation: Ondřej Tomášek,  VIZE
“I thought it would be funny to make a joke out of the ‘iron pumping’. But I don’t really want to explain everything, that’s why I’m not a writer or a comedian. I’m a sculptor, and I have the nice right to say nothing about what I meant. I can be just silent – and I can actually show you what it’s like.”

That was a very nice sample, thank you very much. Are you surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reactions to your creation?

“I think it was Marcel Deschamps who said, ‘they can even talk about you positively; the important thing is they are talking about you at all’.”

And people in London are definitely talking about David Černý and his latest creation, to the delight of the Czech Olympic Committee which hopes that the pushing-up London Booster will bring people inside the Czech House as well.

Some of the programmes were put together by the Czech Centre in London, an organization affiliated with the country’s foreign ministry promoting Czech arts and culture. The head of the Czech Centre, Ladislav Pflimpfl, says the Czechs have done well in the international competition among the various nations’ Olympic presence in London.

“There is a natural competition for similar audiences – you want to get tourists as well as Londoners in so you offer programmes even people who are not interested in the games would come and see – film screenings, concerts, visual art and so on.

Czech House in London,  visualisation: Ondřej Tomášek,  VIZE
“But I think the Czechs are smart in conceiving the house as a place where you can also meet Czech athletes, a place that offers programmes rich in technology… I think the experience of the Czech house will be very unique.”

The Czech House in Islington will be officially launched by President Václav Klaus on Friday noon, just hours before the Olympic flame for the 2012 games in London is lit.