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Volume 25 No. 25
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Intimate USA House Offers Convenience, Amazing Views

Photo: Ben Fischer

The ninth edition of the USA House is a reflection of the entire Pyeongchang Winter Games: smaller, less corporate, but not without a quaint charm.

Expecting lower demand from sponsors for hospitality space and fewer U.S. travelers overall in South Korea, the U.S. Olympic Committee built just a 5,000-square-foot facility. It’s actually the same modular, traveling building it used in Sochi four years ago, but with 2,000 fewer square feet. The blond wood and glass structure was built by Austrian company Hochsitz by Loidl.

Photo: Ben Fischer

There’s not much to it, really. After you clear the entrance foyer, there’s one large room with a bar on the right, a 30-foot-long projection screen on the interior wall to the left, and a smaller private room around the corner.

But the real joy of the house is its panoramic windows and its location at the base of one hill at the Yongpyong Alpine Centre. Several sponsors and other guests have praised the location, calling it intimate and convenient.

Photo: Ben Fischer

During the day, it lets in more than enough sunlight to light the entire facility, and at night, the flood lights against the snow make you feel like you’re in the audience at a play. In a sense, you are — during a media welcome party last Wednesday, I filled in the gaps in small talk by watching recreational snowboarders fly down the hill, stopping just feet from me. (One guest who visited during the day, though, said the sunlight is too much, quickly heating the room past the point of comfort.)

Photo: Ben Fischer

Also, USA House is just a few steps away from the Swiss House, Procter & Gamble’s Family Home, several hotels and a shopping mall. If there were such a thing as time off at the Olympics, you could spend an afternoon just hanging out.

There are no planned sponsor-hosted events for the house, but sponsors are entitled to bring their guests to relax there, and the brands do have a presence: The walls are decorated by old-fashioned toboggans painted for all of the USOC and International Olympic Committee sponsors. Along with passed hors d’oeuvres, Hershey’s had its new Gold caramel creme bars and Krave jerky packets out for snacking; Mondelez’ Ritz and Oreos products were out, too.

Photo: Ben Fischer

One noticeable absence: Since Budweiser declined to renew its USOC sponsorship after the 2016 Rio Games, the bar is unbranded for the first time. All prior USA Houses had red-paneled Budweiser bars; this year, USA House is pouring Kloud, a Korean brand, and Stella Artois.

U.K.-based Living Hospitality is providing the catering service, but its workers were mostly Americans. Especially friendly ones, too.