Africa Village, the continent’s shop window in London during the 2012 Games and its first joint hospitality venue at an Olympics, was closed permanently Thursday due to unpaid debts, organisers said.
The hospitality house, set up in Kensington Gardens in central London, had laid on cultural, sporting and culinary festivities to showcase the continent to athletes, VIPs, business chiefs, sports fans and passers-by.
The venue, sponsored by 20 countries under the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA), has shut down “for reasons beyond its control”, the association said.
“The closure, which is consequent on a dispute between a French enterprise and some English companies, has impacted our continent most adversely, especially as our only desire, when we initiated this project, was to exhibit Africa’s rich cultural diversity,” ANOCA said in a statement.
“We wish to make it clear that ANOCA reserves the right to seek redress for damages caused to our public image and to the exhibitors who were even barred access to the exhibition ground.”
The village was closed because of “non-payment of certain suppliers”, an organiser told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“The suppliers on the structures and the security teams have not been paid. So they came to take away their property. For the moment it’s the status quo. There are discussions going on,” he said.
The tents that housed most of the village have not been taken down, he added.
Lotfi Labaied of the Tunisian Olympic committee, which had a stand at the village, said he was “absolutely furious”.
“We feel hurt. We spent a lot of money” in getting people to come over from Tunisia, he said.
An International Olympic Committee spokesman said the situation was “very sad”.
Several countries have set up a headquarters in the British capital, transforming some of the city’s finest buildings into bases such as “Club France”, “Casa Brasil”, “Casa Italia” or “Sochi Park”.
On the menu are receptions to toast medallists, sporting action on big screens, shows and concerts — not to mention the bars and restaurants serving up national specialities.