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The Olympics, Russia's Anti-Gay Law, and Why We Travel: A New Series

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Even as excitement grows for the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, news over the games has been dominated by controversy. Just last week the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert to Russia. Much of the fuss over the past few months—and one of the six “risks” outlined by the travel alert—pertains to Article 6.21, a country-wide anti-gay law in place since June.

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State Department Issues Travel Alert for Russia Olympics

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The U.S. Department of State issued a travel alert today for Americans planning to attend next month's Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Six potential risks spurred the alert: untested medical treatment facilities, terrorism, petty crime, unpredictable public demonstrations, lack of proper accommodations, and Russia's newly imposed law banning LGBT "propaganda" in public.

The Olympics are always an "attractive target for terrorists," the alert states, but an uptick in deadly suicide bombings in Russia within the past month has officials on guard.

Given these factors, the State Department urges U.S. citizens to "remain attentive regarding their personal security at all times."

T+L has been following the Russia situation closely, and will continue to do so. For up-to-the-minute information, follow the State Department and U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul on Twitter.

Peter Schlesinger is a Research Assistant at Travel + Leisure, and a member of the Trip Doctor News Team. You can follow him on Twitter at @pschles08.

Photo credit: iStockphoto


American Airline's OneWorld Alliance Scores Big in Latin America

American Airlines loyalists and US Airways frequent fliers who were disappointed to hear that the merged carrier would stick to AA's OneWorld alliance rather than join up with the larger Star Alliance, have reason to celebrate today. In a big coup for OneWorld, South America's airline conglomerate LANTAM Airlines Group (a combination of Brazil's TAM Airlines and Chile's excellent LAN Airlines) announced that it will become a fully committed member of the alliance during second quarter of 2014.

What might that mean? For one thing, getting to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio will be easier than ever for American Airlines fliers.

Billions of Reasons We're Fascinated by the 2012 Summer Olympics

London Olympic Stadium

The Olympics are here! To celebrate, T+L rounds up 22 fascinating facts and figures relating to everything London 2012. Behold our smashing pyramid of zany Olympic numbers.

1 Life-size inflatable replica of Stonehenge erected in London for the Games
4 Skeletons removed from the site under the Zaha Hadid–designed Aquatics Centre
37 Languages that the Bard’s plays will be performed in during the World Shakespeare Festival
71 Age of Japanese equestrian Hiroshi Hoketsu, the oldest Olympian competing this summer
150 Bat boxes and artificial otter holts installed in the 500-acre Olympic Park
351 Average rate (in USD) of a hotel room in central London during the games
1,500 Seats in London's temporary McDonald's outpost, which will serve 50,000 Big Macs
4,000 Brand new BMWs ordered to escort dignities and officials to events
10,500 Olympic athletes from 205 participating countries
22,000 Pillows made available in Athletes Village
150,000 Condoms made available in Athletes Village (that's 30 per...couple)
203,000 Pieces of luggage to be handled at Heathrow on August 13, the busiest game day
1,000,000 Pieces of sporting equipment used during the Games
5,000,000 Brits who now regret signing up to receive Games-related emails
10,000,000 Free tickets available across thousands of events in the London 2012 Festival
14,000,000 Meals served during the Games across 40 different London locations
200,000,000 Viewers NBC expects to tune into the broadcasts (not counting Ann Curry)
777,000,000 Cost (in USD) of Olympic security for taxpayers...this covers only the venues
1,000,000,000 Expected visitors to London2012.com
4,000,000,000 Original expected cost (in USD) of the London 2012 Games
14,500,000,000 Current expected cost (in USD) of the London 2012 Games
40,000,000,000 Cost (in USD) of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing—the most expensive to date

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Briana Fasone is a New York City–based freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter @brifasone.

 

Photo courtesy of London 2012 Organising Committee

Olympic Uniforms: Fashion Designers Go For The Gold at London 2012

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Olympic style has improved exponentially since the days of ankle length tennis skirts, barely there basketball shorts, and that loud, tie-dye Grateful Dead getup from 1992.

Today we're seeing scientific designs in the form of aerodynamic apparel made with performance enhancing fabrics for everything from cycling to the long-jump. And lately, international fashion powerhouses have been collaborating with teams to dress athletes in competition and at rest, while others are stitching Olympic-inspired duds for the less athletically inclined.

The ubiquitous Karl Lagerfeld is hawking a limited edition line for a pop-up shop at Selfridges, the quintessential British department store on Oxford St., while ultra-hip boutique Opening Ceremony has opened one in fashion-conscious Covent Garden, with prêt-à-porter pieces created with the games in mind.

Plenty of London 2012 athletes will be dressed to the nines as well: Team USA will be wearing Ralph Lauren for what will be the third time at the games this year. The garments have already caused quite a stir for being made in China.

The Italians will be the heavyweights of luxury uniform design however. Prada has sponsored the Italian sailing team while Salvatore Ferragamo designed the formal wear for the Republic of San Marino and Ermanno Scervino created a colorful kit for the Republic of Azerbaijan. EA7, Armani’s sportswear line is providing both formal and sporting attire for the entire Italian team, including uniform jackets with the words of "Il Canto degli Italiani," the country's national anthem, embroidered inside the jacket.

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Hosting Team GB will be kitted out in Stella McCartney, who collaborated with Adidas on the project. The event gear features deconstructed Union Jacks and are made with high-tech PowerWEB and ClimaCool fabrics. The final product is rather sleek, which is more than I can say for the approximately 8000 volunteer London ambassadors who will be wearing grotesque pink and mauve tracksuits around town. Eek.

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Hermès is providing a blue riding jacket with red lapels for the French equestrian team, and Japanese athletes will be outfitted in local fabrics by the iconic national department store, Takashimaya. The Jamaican track and field team, led by world record holder Usain Bolt, will be sporting second-skins by Cedella Marley (daughter of Bob) developed in collaboration with Puma, and will likely be on the podium again this year with a slew of medals in tow.
 
Not all the designers will go home winners though (some athletes will look like flight attendants, while other outfits will just leave you scratching your head). But I think I'll leave you with a few surprises for the Opening Ceremony tomorrow. Let the games begin!

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Marguerite A. Suozzi is an assistant research editor at Travel + Leisure.





Photos courtesy of Ralph Lauren; Adidas; Japan Olympic Committee.

London Pop-Up Offers Stylish Olympic Spectating

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For months T+L has been counting down to this summer in London, a city already pulsating with game-changing events and pioneering cultural festivals. Now, we’re adding another spot to your London itinerary: The Fringe 2012, a new pop-up members club that will offer ticket-holders some respite from all the Olympic buzz. Just a hundred yards from Olympic Stadium, The Fringe is housed in a converted Victorian stable house at Swan Wharf and will provide some of London’s finest food and drink (with Sweet&Chilli bringing their unique brand of creative cocktails to the experience). Olympic fans shouldn’t fret about missing any of the actionlarge LCD screens will broadcast all the main events.

The Fringe 2012 will officially pop-up on July 20th, a week before the Opening Ceremony, and operate through the Olympic and Paralympic Games until September 9th. Individual tickets start at $112 per day.

2012-hs-briana-fasone.jpg Briana Fasone is a digital editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure. You can follow her on Twitter @brifasone.



Photo courtesy of Nylon Communications Limited.

Last Dash to London! Essential Booking Tips for the Olympic-Bound

201205-b-london-cityscape95605583jpgLast Saturday, the Olympic Torch relay set off in Great Britain and began a 70-day journey through the United Kingdom that will end on July 27 at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games. The countdown has begun.

Set on making it across the pond this summer? It’s not too late—but you must act now! To inspire you procrastinators to begin booking, we present our last-minute get-to-London guide.

The good news: flights to the city’s hub airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, London City) are still available. Right now, a search of round-trip fares from major U.S. cities range from $1,100 to $1,500. Departing from Chicago, you’ll fork over about $1,200 for a round-trip economy ticket on Virgin Atlantic Airways (a seat in the carrier’s newly revamped Upper Class cabin will cost you $2,800).

These fares are steep—and getting steeper—but they aren’t higher than this time last year. “I don’t think airlines are price gauging,” says George Hobica, founder of AirfareWatchdog.com, a site that monitors ticket prices. “It’s still the summer season and we’re seeing reasonable fares for this time of year.”

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With the 2010 Commonwealth Games Over, India Eyes the Olympics

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By most accounts, the XIX Commonwealth Games 2010 were a success. Held every four years, the Olympics-style event brings together 71 nations, most of whom are members of the Commonwealth (née the British Commonwealth). This year, India had the honor of hosting in Delhi. And the Games were indeed a success. That is, now that they're finished -- and no one died. The leadup was nothing short of disaster.

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Where to Stay: 2010 Winter Olympics

Think it's too late to score a hotel room for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver? Think again. I spoke with the Four Seasons Whistler's general manager Tuesday and have great news for all of you winter sports fanatics who thought you lost your chance: Not only does the luxury property still have rooms available for the Games, it's also offering an Olympic package.

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