Athletes on shopping spree at Olympic Park

Last Updated: Fri, Aug 03, 2012 11:50 hrs

London, Aug 3 (IANS) One of the exciting attractions at London's Olympic Park is the glitzy Westfield Stratford City Shopping Mall. The 175,000-square-metre shopping centre, built with an investment of 1.45 billion pounds, will be open only to the ticket holders to the Games over the weekend.

The mall may have targeted the catchment population of Stratford, largely dominated by Asians -- but of the 10 million visitors expected to walk into the complex during the ongoing London Olympics, at least seven million are expected to pass through this massive shopping centre.

The Olympic sports celebrities have led the way to the mall, which is almost cheek-by-jowl with the athletes' village at Olympic Park and close to the aquatics centre.

The gorgeous 23-year-old Susan Thorsgaard, the star player of Danish women's handball team, was at the Eat restaurant of Westfield animatedly talking to her father and coach.

"It is so tempting to not go for shopping while at Westfield," the six-foot-two-inch Susan said.

"May be we all will go shopping at the end of the game," Susan's father consoled his daughter.

The mall will be out of bounds over this weekend to shoppers in the Stratford vicinity as it would be thrown open exclusively to the Games' ticket holders for six and half hours from 9.30 a.m. so that the crowds are easily managed.

Some Slovakia athletes were curious onlookers at the Carphone Warehouse, Europe's largest independent mobile phone retailer and so were the members of the Kyrgyzstan Olympic squad entranced by the window displays of the shops in the upper floor of the mall.

It was a riot of colours in Westfield -- the Germen men were spotted attired in bright baby blue and their women athletes in "Barbie pink", while the Malaysians wore sarong-style overskirts. Trinidad & Tobago, a country whose ethnicity boasts nearly 40 percent Indians, had its sportswomen clad in diagonal striped wrap dresses and Jamaican female sports-stars in neon yellow while their men were wearing apple green jackets.

However, it is not a frequent sight to see Indian women athletes with their canary yellow colour sari who were part of Danny Boyle's extravaganza or Indian men athletes with their white trousers and dark jackets.

The Olympic athletes in their colourful outfits were in the pubs, eateries, retail outlets of John Lewis neatly arranged with 350,000 product lines. The Adidas, Bosco, Nike and Sports Direct had been visited by Olympic athletes looking for additional sporting gear or accessories.

The athletes were seen at the sprawling food court eating anything from lotus leaf to sushi.

"Many of the athletes poured themselves on our Indian menu and tried out large meals," said a waiter at an Indian restaurant, Royal Indian Delicacies, situated near Waitrose at the ground floor of Westfield. Also, situated on the first floor of Westfield foodcourt is Indi-Go, Indian eatery which serves anything from lentil soup and samosa to paneer and kashmiri meat curry.

Prasanna Anantharasa, an employee at Apple Store, who divides his time between Westfield and Regent Street, said: "Apple is currently a big draw among sports celebrities as they seek out anything from iPod to iPhone."

In comparison, the retailers in central London's shopping districts are disappointed and bemoaning the sales which have not reached the expected feverish pitch. The recession certainly has taken the sting out of Olympics.

Westfield expects the shopping to go up as the Olympic carnival continues into the second and last week.

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