August and September have been busy months for The Queen Elizabeth II Centre (QEIICC): The whole Centre was transformed into ‘Casa Italia’ – home to CONI (the National Olympic Committee of Italy), then during the Paralympics it became the headquarters of the Paralympic team of Italy, and finally the Department of Culture, Media and Sports held a reception for all the Team GB athletes, following the Victory parade through the streets on London:
Casa Italia was the biggest event ever to have taken place at The QEIICC, and Event Manager, Darren Jordan was the person responsible for working with CONI to transform the venue.
Darren says: “I have been working with CONI since the start of the year to help them convert all six floors of the venue. The past few months have been an Italian whirlwind! From dealing with Italian contractors (who had to be reminded of UK health and safety policies) to trying out my own Italian (following our Italian lessons to ensure we could communicate with our client); it has been an eventful few months.”
The ground floor foyer had a welcome and registration desk, whilst the Churchill auditorium was turned into a stage for live events – including opera, Italian artists and of course medal ceremonies.
The first floor housed an area dedicated to each of the sponsors – Banca Intesa, Fiat Group Automobiles, Italian luxury brand EA7 Emporio Armani and Kinder. EA7 Emporio Armani is the sponsor and official outfitter of the Italian Olympic and Paralympic team and so a beautiful onsite merchandise store was created.
The second floor became the “Italian Experience’ – where visitors discovered how sustainability plays an important role in Italian products, resources and technology and they were also able to experience Italy for themselves with wine and food tasting from the regions.
The third and fourth floors were private; one floor was turned into an Italian restaurant – for CONI and their sponsors to entertain guests, whilst the other was dedicated to the Italian media.
The fifth floor was home to a Banca Intensa exhibition of Italian photography – showing a snapshot of ‘Italy and The Italians’ (the title of the exhibition).
The sixth floor was also private – it was turned into a nightclub for Casa Italia VIPs and invited guests only. The QEIICC team managed to secure a late license for CONI to entertain their VIP guests into the early hours.
The QEII Lawn at the front of the venue was also transformed with giant ‘Casa Italia’ lettering, and at night the Centre looked stunning –lit with the colours of the Italian flag.
CONI Paralympic Team Headquarters:
CONI also used the Centre as their headquarters for the Paralympic Games. The event took over the fifth and sixth floors of the Centre and ran from the 28th August through to the 8th September.
Again, Darren Jordan was the event manager: “The Paralympic event was very different to the Olympic ‘Casa Italia’ event. This time, the event was completely private – with no areas open to the public.”
CONI brought in their own team of Italian contractors to build the many rooms within rooms so that each of the sponsors had their own areas for corporate hospitality. Thy also built their own restaurant and hosted lunches and dinners for around 100 guests each evening.
Leith’s (the in-house caters at The QEIIC) were tasked with providing ‘authentic’ Italian cuisine for CONI, the athletes, the sponsors and their guests.
Darren says: “CONI chose the menu and then Leith’s sourced and created the dishes. CONI was extremely happy with the quality and the style of food served. It is no mean feat to create genuine Italian food of a standard to satisfy an Italian audience so our congratulations must go to Leith’s for creating food to this standard.”
Team GB Reception:
Following the much publicised Team GB victory parade through London on Monday 10th September, the athletes were treated to a reception at the Centre. The reception for 1000 athletes and guests was held on the third floor in the Fleming and Whittle Rooms and the Benjamin Britten Lounge (BBL) and was commissioned by the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). The reception began at The QEIICC at around 4.30pm.
The drinks reception took place in the BBL where guests enjoyed a fork buffet prepared by Leith’s at the Centre. Particular care had to be given to the food served; the majority of the guests were athletes so the food prepared was healthy and fresh – salads, lean meats with little or no use of fats.
Jamie Ades was the account manager looking after this event: “The event was booked at very short notice but everything went according to plan. Hosting an event for such an esteemed guest list was quite an honour – guests included the vast majority of the Team GB Olympians and Paralympians, Princess Anne, David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Catherine Jenkins and Rowan Atkinson. We also had over 100 guests in wheelchairs – which is something that I don’t think The QEIICC has catered for before.”
A stage was set up in the Fleming room so that the guests could enjoy live music from the band ‘King of Spain’, which was followed by a DJ set from Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles.
Jamie continues: “The guests enjoyed the music and the evening was brought to a close at 8pm. The reception was a fantastic way of celebrating the success of Team GB and the whole QEIICC team was proud and honoured to have been a part of it. It was a great event and a brilliant conclusion to the summer of sporting events held here at the Centre.”