Host an Olympics party

Can’t attend your favourite sporting events in person? You’re not alone. Most people will be enjoying the London 2012 Summer Games from the comfort of their couch rather than a stadium seat. Still, we can share in the Olympic spirit in our homes and hometowns — and it’s the perfect excuse for a get-together.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to settle for beer and pub fare in front of the TV. Here are some tips to perk up your party.

Pick an event

With so many events to choose from, there’s bound to be something to appeal to your guests. When in doubt, pick a favourite among your family and friends (perhaps the opening ceremonies for a start?) and see what dates and times fit with your schedule and theirs.

While you’ll need to check with your local television providers for details, the London 2012 Olympic Schedule and Results page can give you a rough idea of what’s happening when. (Round robin games and medal events are marked.)

Build a theme

Many people are more excited about the Olympics than many other major sports events, and this near-universal appeal opens up options to get friends and family involved. For instance, build an evening around your favourite sport, complete with decorations and paraphernalia, or invite the members of your own sports team over for a medal-round match.

Some other ideas to try:

Olympic sleepover with the kids or grandkids. Let them stay up past their bed time. A few goodies like ice cream sundaes and crafts can make the evening a hit. (You may want to record events ahead of time to watch later — the time difference can be as much eight hours, depending on where you live.)

The at-work potluck. Favourite event happening during the day? Have everyone bring in a snack, dessert or appetizer and sneak away to the break room for a few minutes or an extra-long lunch. (Check with your employer first.)

Girls’ night in. Yes, ladies love the Olympics too, and outside of the Olympics many women’s events don’t get the same attention as the men’s. Cheer on your favourite female athletes, or enjoy an event that might not be as popular with the men in your life.

Olympics brunch. Did we mention the time difference? Serve a buffet brunch with some make-ahead ideas (like muffins and fruit salad) and settle in to enjoy the action.

Set the scene

Time for some rearranging! The viewing area is the focal point, so arrange furniture so everyone can see the TV and access food. If needed, borrow some extra chairs and cushions to keep everyone comfortable for the evening.

What about décor? Anything with your country’s flag or your favourite team’s colours will generate some pride. It doesn’t have to be fancy — a bunch of coloured balloons, some streamers or a table decorated with coloured napkins can help set the stage. The Olympic rings include a variety of colours, so here’s a chance to use up the odds and ends in your decorating stash.

Need some easy-to-serve treats? Fill a clear bag with chocolates wrapped in gold, silver or copper-coloured foil.

If you’ve got some helping hands, get the kids involved making some simple decorations, like chains of cardboard loops. Use any crafts they created at school — like hand-drawn flags or pictures — to decorate the walls and fridge. Of course, bare skin is also fair game! Have some face paint or make-up handy to show your team spirit. Use up the leftovers from Halloween, and make sure to have plenty of red and white!

Choose the foods

Skip the pub fare and get a little creative with the menu. Here are some ideas:

Canadian treats: It’s traditional to serve foods from the host country, and Canada has its own treats to offer. Ice wine, seafood, local wines, Nanaimo bars, poutine and anything made with maple syrup –like maple meringues or shortbreads — are just a few options. With the wide variety of foods grown here in Canada, you may want to dig a little deeper for recipes. (For some ideas, see Canadian favourites.)

International potluck: Know some great cooks? Make it a potluck and have everyone bring a favourite food from a different country competing in that evening’s events.

Lucky foods: Think gold and eat gold! A bowl of hummus, yellow squash, tortilla chips, corn bread, polenta and cookies all keep with this theme. Yes, you can cheat a little with food colouring, or look for edible gold, silver or bronze powders at your local specialty shop to add some sparkle to desserts and drinks. Garnish your golden elixirs with lemon or pineapple slices.

It goes without saving to prepare as much as possible ahead of time so you don’t miss the event, but beware of messy foods and liquids to avoid mishaps in all the excitement.

Also, keep some healthy foods in the mix because eating and drinking in front of the TV can put a serious dent in the diet. Serve plenty of water and satisfying foods like vegetables with dip, toasted pita wedges with salsa and fruit with a yoghurt dip.

Plan the before and after

Have guests arrive a little early to settle in before the event starts, and be prepared if they want to stick around afterwards to relive some of the action. Have some light munchies ready as they arrive, and plan a game if desired. For instance, hand out score cards so guests can make their predictions (and place some bets). Have some trivia questions (and prizes!) for commercial breaks.

And when the evening is winding down, encourage some post-event mingling with a night-cap. If you’re planning on serving a dessert to celebrate sweet victory, now is a good time because people won’t be distracted by the action on the TV.

Share the duties

Are you following a multi-game sport or event? Organize your own round robin to share hosting duties. The logistics are similar to a games club or bridge night. Choose your sport, compile a list of like-minded hosts, assign names to dates and figure out some guidelines — like whether just drinks and dessert will be provided or full meals, and who is providing the alcohol. If one family’s home becomes the favourite (thanks to a larger space or bigger TV) then have guests take turns bringing refreshments and share the clean-up duties.

Olympic parties can be as elaborate or as simple as you like. Don’t worry if you’re tight on time or funds. Years from now, what people will really remember is the experience — the company with whom they shared the big wins.

Sources:, Canadian Press