Staying at a luxury hotel during the Olympics is just so Beijing 2008. Or so the thinking seems to go for some of the world’s wealthiest travelers, who have parked their super-yachts along the River Thames in the run-up to the Games.
East London — a former industrial wasteland which is still rather rough around the edges — isn’t exactly the French Riviera. But it will transform, for a time anyway, into a playground for billionaires eager to hobnob with the world’s business, sporting and political elite during the Olympics. Octopus, the $200 million super-yacht that belongs to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, docked on the Thames over the weekend. The 414-ft. luxury liner likely has views of Ilona, a $120 million super-yacht owned by Frank Lowy, one of the founders of the Westfield shopping mall group (which, it should be noted, has a mall situated right by the Olympic Stadium). The Daily Mail reports that Eclipse, Roman Abramovich’s 557-ft. yacht with two swimming pools, a helipad, and bullet-proof windows — it’s believed to be the world’s biggest yacht — was due to arrive sometime Monday. The Maltese Falcon, which is owned by Greek tycoon Elena Ambrosiadou, is expected to arrive soon as well.
They’re not just coming for the views of the Olympic Park. Business heavyweights like Google’s Eric Schmidt and Sony’s Howard Stringer will attend a series of conferences and summits set up by the U.K. Trade and Investment group during the Games. That means the super rich can invite conference attendees on board their yachts, perhaps securing invites to post-Olympic parties. Best of all, the champagne networking has the air of respectability since the government is hosting events. Prime Minister David Cameron has previously emphasized how important the meetings are to promoting brand Britain. “The Olympics will not only bring the world’s best athletes and thousands of sports fans to our country, but the major business players are coming too,” he said in April. “This once in a lifetime occasion will provide U.K. companies with more than a billion pounds business opportunity.”
And for the world’s wealthiest travelers, it’s also an opportunity to show off what money can buy. Around 100 super-yachts are expected to join the flotilla already forming along the Thames. Berths along the river, including those near Tower Bridge, have reportedly been booked out for several months. Authorities that oversee the docks believe at least 800 security guards will be hired to defend the yachts — and all the pearls, caviar and helicopters contained on them.
There are options for oligarchs whose boats are cruising in the South Pacific or some other far-flung locale, too. Charter yachts, including the 213-ft. Seanna, are available for around $450,000 a week. Tickets to the actual Olympic events, presumably, are not included in the price.