SBJ/April 29-May 5, 2013/Olympics

USOC back to one hospitality spot

The U.S. Olympic Committee is downsizing its hospitality plans for the Sochi Games.

The organization, which set up two hospitality centers in Vancouver, will have just one in Sochi. The USOC still is looking for locations for that hospitality center, known as USA House, and hopes to have a location finalized in the coming months.

The USOC had this hospitality house in Vancouver as well as another closer to alpine events for the 2010 Games, but will have just one such venue in Sochi.
Photo by: ANDREW BURTON
The decision to reduce its hospitality footprint from Vancouver comes as no surprise. The organization anticipated an increase in guests at its USA House in Vancouver because it was a North American Olympics, and it opted to have a hospitality center in Vancouver, which hosted hockey, figure skating and curling, and Whistler, which hosted the alpine events, because the two locations were separated by a two-hour drive.

Sochi will have a coastal cluster of venues that host figure skating and hockey and a mountain cluster that hosts alpine events. Spectators can take a 30-minute train ride between the two sites.

“Sochi is close enough that the mountain venues and city venues are nearby, so we’re able to have one gathering place, which we prefer,” said USOC Chief Communications Officer Patrick Sandusky. “This will be much more like a Summer Games with one venue.”

The USA House facilities serve as a gathering place for members of the USOC, Team USA, corporate partners, sponsors, suppliers and licensees. The first USA House was erected in Salt Lake City, and it has grown in each subsequent Olympics. It’s a place where partners can conduct meetings, dine or attend after-hours athlete medal celebrations.

Sandusky said the USOC is considering locating next year’s USA House inside the Olympic Park in Sochi’s coastal cluster.

In evaluating a venue inside the park, the USOC will have to weigh whether Sochi’s plans to develop a spectator-pass system would prohibit potential guests from visiting USA House. Sochi organizers currently plan to require ticket holders to have a spectator’s pass in order to enter the Olympic Park and attend events. Those passes can only be secured in advance by providing the Russian government with background information ranging from passport details to biographical information.

USA House typically hosts events for everyone from sponsors to IOC dignitaries. Requiring those guests to go through security outside the Olympic Park in order to reach the hospitality center might deter guests from visiting.

Sandusky said that the spectator-pass system was something the USOC was evaluating. It hasn’t set a deadline for when it wants to have a venue selected or determined how large the venue needs to be.

It announced the location of its USA House in Vancouver six months before the Olympics. The total square footage of the USA House sites in Vancouver (25,000 square feet) and Whistler (3,500 square feet) were twice as large as what the USOC offered for the Winter Games in Salt Lake City and Turin, Italy, in 2002 and 2006, respectively.

“We’re just trying to work to find a location that serves our needs and our sponsor needs and fits our budget,” Sandusky said.

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