SPORTS

Canada House puts on its Olympic face, offers Games parents a place to hang out

07/27/2012 01:18 EDT | Updated 09/26/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - The Molson Canadian was flowing, the Maple Leaf was everywhere and the Four Tenors were on hand to sing the national anthem as Canada House put on its official Olympic face Friday.

Perhaps the only Canadian icons missing were Bob and Doug McKenzie but Canada's officialdom was well represented by David Johnston and Michaelle Jean, the current and former governor general, Canadian High Commissioner Gordon Campbell and Bal Gosal, minister of state for Sport.

They were all there to mark the transition of Canada House into Canada Olympic House for the duration of the Summer Games.

The building, which dates back to the 1820s, is home to the Canadian High Commission in London. But during the Games, it is flag-waving central, a home away from home, and gathering spot for parents of Olympians.

Chef de mission Mark Tewksbury, a former Olympic champion swimmer, recalled how his father had his wallet stolen at the 1992 Games.

"There was nowhere to go," he said with a laugh. "He called me. I was sort of distracted for a few moments with all of that going on. So it's really important that at the biggest moment of their life, there's somewhere that friends and family know they can go, that they know they don't have to maybe interrupt the preparation of the athletes themselves and just feel safe and have a great place to come and gather."

Such family support is helped by the sponsorship of corporations, whose logos share Canada Olympic House wall space with photos of Canadian athletes in action. A gift shop at the front offers Canadian team gear from The Bay.

The family get-together is evident already. While washing up in the men's room, a pair of fathers compared notes on their respective basketball and gymnastics offspring.

The father of Ottawa's Michael Taylor, who will compete in canoe-kayak slalom, worked his way to near the front of the crowd with his camera to get a better view of the festivities.

Twins Robert and Edward Horner, from Ottawa and Montreal respectively, turned heads with their "The EH-Team" T-shirts. The 33-year-old Horners, in London to support cousin Stephanie Horner on her 400 IM Olympic swimming campaign, earned a photo op and tweet with the Four Tenors.

The messages Friday ranged from the popular to the more esoteric.

Campbell enthusiastically led a chant of "Go Canada go."

Johnston talked of how sport can benefit the world.

"As the organizers of the London Olympics have stated, these Games have the potential to inspire a generation in so many ways," said Johnston. "Not least by building ties with friendship and co-operation between peoples.

"Together with our athletes, we represent the Canadian Olympic movement. So let us seize this opportunity to make the world a better place through sport."

Tewksbury and assistant Sylvie Bernier, meanwhile, offered the parents a message of their own.

"Sylvie and I would like you all to know that while you're here, we're taking care of your kids in the (Athletes) Village with the mission team," said Tewksbury. "They're in very good hands."

Prior to the event, Tewksbury talked up the organization of the Games.

"It's an amazing Olympic village, I have to tell you," he said. "The food is spectacular. The Olympic lanes seem to be working really well with transportation, so far.

"So from the inside, it's just been a spectacular Games to date."

The food was just as popular at Canada House.

Guests munched on pistachio persillade yellow fin tuna with vermicelli noodle salad and other treats thanks to executive chef Jean Soulard, who has taken a few days from his normal gig of running the Chateau Frontenac kitchen in Quebec City to spice up the menu at Canada House.

Located on Trafalgar Square, Canada House is just a short walk from the Olympic beach volleyball venue.

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