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How to Throw an Olympics Party

UK_US_Flags Use

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to get bitten by the bug; the Olympics bug that is….BIG TIME!

Maybe it’s the fact that I have happy memories of watching that cute little fireplug, Mary Lou Retton, win the 1984 gold in gymnastics? Maybe it’s enjoying the unique team uniforms that each country wears walking into the Opening Ceremonies? Or maybe it’s just the fact that I’m looking for something to celebrate, after being warn down by the gloom and doom of our country’s shrinking economy?

Whatever the reason, I’m game. So what better way to get into it, than throwing an impromptu British-themed party, for family and friends, to watch the Opening Ceremonies from London on Friday, July 29th?

You may not be able to get a ticket to London. But it’s not too late to celebrate in style. After mapping out my theme, with my wonderfully talented sister-in-law, International Flair, à la London, 2012, is in order. I scoured the web for the best food, flavor and fun that will guarantee a time folks won’t soon forget. So let’s get started!

Invitations

After perusing the web and seeing what’s out there in terms of logos, styles, and vendors, I decided to just print my own invites on heavier cardstock than usual at home. Keeping the London 2012 theme in mind, I searched online for Olympic ring logos, international flags, and fun London-themed artwork, like London buses, Union Jacks and other imagery that would suit the bill. As you can tell from the pic below, we kept it simple.

Too late to print out and mail your invites the traditional way? Thanks to the Internet, time is on your side. Just create your invite, with images, text, and other event info on a word doc and attach it, or copy and paste into the body of your email.

Not feeling creative? Free online invitation sites are fast and easy. I like Evite or Punchbowl – just type in the word “summer games” into their search tabs and away you go.

Decorations

Part of the fun of watching the Olympics, is learning all about the host country’s culture and its people. Keeping that in mind, decorating our space with lots of pomp and circumstance, using a London, 2012 theme, peppered with a little Olympic fun, was a no-brainer.

Luckily for us, England’s Union Jack is in the colors of red, white and blue, so you won’t have too far to look to hunt and gather that type of décor that kills two birds. I’m feeling a happy dance coming on.

Now that July 4th is well behind us, many big box stores, like Target and Kmart, have deep discounts on patriotic items, like U.S. flags of all sizes, banners, paper goods, and other red, white and blue décor.

If you want to offer a more diverse look, you can order flags from various countries, in sized as big as a wall to the cute little ones to stick on the food table or have in the hands of guests as we cheer on our favorite countries. Amazon and Oriental Trading home of the party superstore, are good hits. If you’d like to incorporate the Olympic theme, there’s lots of easy ways to jazz up the party without breaking the bank.

Again, Oriental Trading, Amazon, and the Party Store, all have fun kitschy items that you can use for display or for fun favors. As a matter of fact, a quick search on Amazon pulled up over a 1,000 items, with an Olympic theme. From T-shirts to tattoos, international banners, to design your own sports medals, the possibilities are endless. And many vendors can guarantee delivery in time for the party.

One tip I use regularly is to NOT agree to have all of your goods held until they can ship all in one box together. This way, you won’t be held hostage waiting for one item that’s on backorder, when you can get everything else home in time for the party.

As for British-themed items, thankfully, a quick check confirms that the Union Jack is seen everywhere these days, from pillows, to posters, designers are selling this everywhere from Homegoods to Jonathan Adler. But if you don’t want to break the bank, again, online websites like Amazon, are your best bet, for finding unique and low-cost ideas that can deliver by your party date.

From clothing, (yes, I am wearing a Union Jack flag dress as my “costume” to cheer on my fellow brits – more on that later), to jewelry, to posters, to yes, possibly one of the tackiest, yet most fun items ordered – a kitschy inflatable torch. Can you just see the kids running around with that?

Fun Items

So how do you incorporate your guests into all of the fun? How about asking them to wear gear or dress in their favorite country’s style? I, personally, will be wearing a rather funky dress fashioned from my large Union Jack flag, saluting my mother’s British roots. Rumor on the street is that my brother-in-law will be wearing his Bermuda shorts and bow tie from his favorite island destination, Bermuda. The campier and more playful the better. Plus, it’s a great way to use those Olympic medals we bought online. Award for best costume goes to?

What to Serve

Since we want to keep our alliance with England alive and well, we’ll be offering both English themed foods along with some good ol’ American BBQ. With some simple red, white and blue paper goods, we’re dividing the table right down the middle, like a UN delegate meeting.

On the USA Side:
hot dogs
watermelon
Jell-O
tomato salad
mac and cheese
corn on the cob
chips and pretzels

On the UK side:
bangers and mash with traditional onion gravy
tea sandwiches of cucumber, potted ham, and egg salad
scones with lemon curd and blackberry preserves
strawberries and cream

Clearly, we all know where we can find the usual suspects like lemonade, mac and cheese, etc. But what about British foods?

Think global, shop local!

Luckily there are lots of menus on the web, offering a wealth of recipes to help you think British at home. However, if you don’t want to do too much cooking, surprisingly, a number of great British food stores can be located right in you own neighborhood with a quick online search.

Myers of Keswick, probably one of the best British food product stores in the United States, is a must for anyone who considers themselves anglophiles. Their online shop offers a number of items, including yummy banger sausages, Cornish pasties, scones, as well as imported products like jams, cookies, and candy. Who doesn’t love Smarties?

Myers of Keswick
634 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
212-691-4194

In my Main Line Philadelphia neighborhood, there is a great teashop that I frequent regularly. A Taste of Britain has a number of packaged goods and homemade foods for sale, like sausage rolls, shepherds pie, etc.

A number of U.S. supermarkets, including specialty shops in NY, like Fairway, and national chains like Stop and Shop, carry a number of British food items for sale in their international aisle. I hit my local Wegmans this week, to snap up a load of candy, cookies, and jams, for my table and the prices were reasonable. ($1-$2 a piece.)

If you’d prefer to order online, these U.S. based online stores can ship fairly quickly and have a good selection. (Click on the name to go to the website).
The British Tea Shop
English Tea Shop
Bridgeham and Cook, Ltd.

Something from the Bar?

Keeping the summer heat in mind, along with our theme, we’re offering a nice range of cocktails and mocktails, that will keep guests cool as an English cucumber. A party isn’t complete without a theme cocktail. So what better, than the English equivalent of a Mint Julep? How about a Pimms Cup?

Usually served lawn side, while watching cricket, this refreshing drink is a mix of lemony soda like 7-Up or Ginger Ale, fruit, cucumber, mint and a shot of Pimms, a gin-based drink available at U.S. liquor stores. Click here for the recipe.

Additionally, we’ll have the following:
- Gin and Tonics
- Cold Beer
- Lemonade
- Iced English Tea
- Hard Cider – (available in many markets and liquor stores, but please remember, they do contain alcoholic content, so keep an eye on those who think they’re just like apple cider!)

London Calling!

Well that’s it. With a little thought and some creative elbow grease, you can throw a fun, topical themed party without breaking the bank. I hope these tips give you some great ideas on how to throw an Olympic Party for yourself.

Remember, the Summer Games kick off with the opening ceremonies at 7:30 pm, Friday, July 27th on NBC.

Cheerio!

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