Traffic increases at the USOC’s revamped, homey USA House

One wall of USA House features a 20-by-10-foot photo of Team USA from the opening ceremony.
Lisa Reliford, the USOC’s new director of meeting and event services, replaced longtime event coordinator Jerri Foehrkolb after the 2010 Vancouver Games, and she’s added some of her own touches to the organization’s hospitality center and home-away-from-home during the London Games.

For the first time, the USOC printed the photos hanging in the house on canvas and framed them. That means it will be able to roll up and take the wall-sized, 20-foot-long by 10-foot-tall photo of Team USA walking in the opening ceremony back to the U.S. The photograph has been autographed by more than 50 Olympians and the organization plans to hang it in one of its training centers to inspire future athletes.

USOC Chairman Larry Probst (left) talks with boxer Evander Holyfield at the house.
The organization also set up a display in the USA House lobby with medals and Olympic torches from the first two London Games, in 1908 and 1948, and the three U.S. Summer Games (Los Angeles in 1932 and 1984, and Atlanta in 1996).

“I thought it would be nice to celebrate the hometown and our hometown as well,” Reliford said during a tour of the hospitality center this week.

Traffic at USA House is up considerably from 2008. The house is located in an area of London populated by a lot of U.S. expatriates, and hospitality demand for most of the USOC’s sponsors is up from four years ago. It is hosting more than 1,000 people a day, double what the organization has records for from the Beijing Games. During the 17 days of the London Games, USA house will host more than 100 meetings and events.

Serena Williams is one of more than 50 athletes who have signed the wall.

As for the house itself, for the most part USA House sticks to the formula that the USOC has developed and continuously improved upon since it began doing Olympic hospitality for sponsors, athletes and Olympic organizations at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

The facility occupies 32,000 square feet of a college building adjacent to Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington. Though it is 10,000 square feet smaller than the 2008 USA House in Beijing, it feels bigger because both its upstairs and downstairs rooms are large and open.

The main room is a huge open space with couches, a bar, a buffet and dozens of Panasonic TVs tuned to the Olympic Broadcasting System’s main feed. There are two decks with TVs and a downstairs area with two Deloitte conference rooms, two rooms for private functions and a theater that sponsors can use for speaking events.

USOC sponsors are showcased throughout the venue. Chobani has a refrigerator filled with its yogurt; coffee is served in McDonald’s McCafé cups; TD Ameritrade has a stock ticker; Acer has four desktops for people to work on; BP has an ad on a canvas screen in the main lobby; Bud branded one of the decks and has a bar on it; the other deck is presented by Coca-Cola and has black chairs with red cushions; Samsung and AT&T have phone- and tablet-charging stations; and United and DeVry each branded the downstairs rooms for private functions.

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