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Volume 25 No. 8
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USOC, Hershey’s Plan Festival Monday At Military Base In Seoul

In the middle of the Pyeongchang Games, the U.S. Olympic Committee is heading west to Seoul for a major event at the Yongsan Garrison, home to nearly 6,200 active-duty military members and more than 10,000 family members.

Officially, the President’s Day festival is fashioned as the latest stop on the Team USA WinterFest Presented by Hershey’s, a 12-stop experiential tour that started in Times Square on Nov. 1. But it’s a level of magnitude more consequential in cost and symbolism, the first time the USOC and its sponsors have activated outside the United States. (If it weren’t on a military base, the program would encroach on Pyeongchang 2018’s turf.)

USOC CMO Lisa Baird said she first thought of the idea two years ago, while initially touring South Korea to prepare for the Pyeongchang trip. Then, she learned of the significance of Yongsan, one of the largest American installations in the world and headquarters of the U.S.-South Korean defense alliance.

“A lot of people want to try and thank the troops, and they do, and they show someone in Afghanistan, a garrison, watching the Super Bowl,” Baird said. “But we want to do it better. We’re here, we wanted to bring some Olympic spirit to the Yongsan Garrison.”

As title sponsor, Hershey’s will offer make-your-own-s’mores booths, decorating Hershey’s Kisses kiss jars and giveaways of its new Hershey’s Gold product. Other sponsors activating with the tour include Oreo (Mondelez) and Samsung.

The festival includes a comedy performance by Cedric the Entertainer, musical performances by pop singer Rachel Platten and an appearance by 2006 Olympic silver-medal figure-skater Sasha Cohen. Matt Mortensen, a member of the USA Luge team and a staff sergeant in the New York Army National Guard, will receive special recognition.

On Sunday, the USOC will host a reception at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, to be attended by about 100 people including General Vincent Brooks, the top U.S. military official in Korea, and Marc Knapper, the highest-ranking state department official (there is not a current ambassador). Officials from Olympic sponsors Adecco, Dow and GE also will attend.

The trip has the added benefit of bringing USOC leadership to Seoul, where some Olympic sponsors have chosen to base their Olympic operations in light of the sparse accommodations in rural Pyeongchang.

“There’s a lot of people staying in Seoul,” Baird said. “We have sponsors attending with us.”

If the project is successful, Baird said, the USOC will aim to re-create the program at U.S. military bases in Japan during the 2020 Tokyo Games.