LONDON, England - Thursday was a day off for Bahamians, as far as competition at these 30th Olympic Games is concerned, but it certainly wasn't an off day for the pleasant staff of the Bahamas Host Association (BHA).
As they have done since the start of the games, BHA President Duchess Williams-Alonga and her staff, ensured that Bahamians who stopped by Bahamas House on Thursday, were well taken care of. The house itself is the official residence of the Bahamas High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Paul Farquharson.
For the past week and a half, and for the remainder of the games, Bahamians who live here, or who are just visiting, can experience the ambience of a truly Bahamian setting. It's almost like a home away from home, complete with Bahamian food, drinks and music. Even the decor is as Bahamian as it could be with Androsian cloths covering the tables and black, gold and aquamarine cushions decorating the couches and chairs. Quite frankly, the only thing that was missing was a little bit of Junkanoo music.
"This is something that we have planned for quite some time, and it is truly a pleasure," said Williams-Alonga. "Words cannot express how delighted I am to actually be welcoming Bahamians to London, and making sure that they have a fabulous time here. We want to make sure that whenever they come to the U.K., they feel like they are right at home. We want to make sure that whenever they step into the Bahamas High Commission here in London, it's almost like they are on Bahamian soil - Bahamian food, Bahamian music and just a warm Bahamian welcome."
Mr Farquharson said that the whole idea was to partner with the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC), for these Olympic Games to provide the kinds of amenities that Bahamians are used to back home.
"We look at this place as a Bahamas Olympic Village," said the high commissioner. "It is for the comfort of all Bahamians. Family and friends of the athletes are particularly welcomed, especially the ones who might not be able to get tickets, so that they can watch the Bahamian athletes in competition. Of course, the athletes are welcomed as well on days when they might not be competing or when their competition would have been completed. We just thought that it would be great to partner with the BOC and provide this kind of atmosphere."
A number of Bahamians, inclusive of journalists, team officials, and even a few athletes, passed through by Bahamas House on Thursday. Some Bahamians who live in London stopped by as well.
Kindinicia Moore, a student here in London who is a part of the Bahamas Host Association, said that she was excited to see so many Bahamians come together in one place to socialize and celebrate the achievements of Bahamians at these Olympic Games.
"It was truly a joy to see Arianna compete, and I also anticipate seeing the other Bahamians compete as well while having Bahamian food, relaxing and just having a good time," she said. "I think the Bahamas Host Association is a great organization because this wasn't here when I came to London. Now, when Bahamians come over, they have a central point where they can come to enjoy themselves and just get basic general information about London, and how to get around the city. It's a great idea and I hope it continues," she added.
According to BHA President Williams-Alonga, this hospitality will continue. It isn't just something that will cease with the completion of the Olympic Games.
"Well, this is just the beginning of things to come. We want all of our students, or even if you are just passing through, to come and enjoy yourselves. We are planning on hosting many receptions, even after the Olympics, for Bahamians coming over. It is something that we love doing and something that we will continue to do."
Even after the Bahamian chef who was brought in by the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) got sick, Williams-Alonga and her team continued to serve up tasty Bahamian dishes.
"It was unfortunate that he got sick, but it wasn't much of a challenge for us because all of us are chefs in our own right," she said. "It was a challenge, but like I mentioned, it is something that we enjoy doing, so it wasn't a setback at all."
According to reports, Chef Arvin Humes, who was flown in by the BOC, caught the chicken pox while here. He is said to be resting and recuperating.
As for the Bahamas Host Association, Williams-Alonga said that they can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
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