After talking to George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg about the fantastic Canada Olympic House, we got curious about how hospitality houses came to be and what other nations were doing with theirs.
According to the Wall Street Journal, international houses have been a tradition for some countries since at least 1992, but it wasn’t until the 2012 London Summer Olympics when over 50 hospitality houses popped up all over the city that the idea really took off.
Now, in Rio, as the Olympic committee announced earlier this year, more than 30 countries have opened official themed residences at prime, often historically and culturally significant locations throughout the city. South Korea, for instance, is hosting K-pop concerts and cooking competitions at its digs at the Sulamérica Convention Center, while Qatar’s house at the Casa Daros, a former art museum, has been transformed into a souk.
Many of the houses are free and open to the public, while others, like those of the U.S., Great Britain, China, Canada, and Russia are restricted to Olympians and their guests. Some houses require pre-registration and/or an entrance fee.
Olympic houses—the ones open to the public, at least—serve several purpose. Not only do they function as a home-away-from-home for athletes and sports officials (and their friends and families) and a celebration center (a.k.a. party house) for medalists, they also allow fans and tourists from all over the world to explore the culture of that country. The houses have been particularly popular with Brazilians, many of whom lack the means to travel abroad.
Head to the official Rio site for a more-or-less complete list of houses and visitor information, and peek some of the most noteworthy ones below. We’ve already covered the Canada House as well as the Danish pavilion.
The Portugal House is actually located on a historic boat called the Sagres, a Portuguese naval ship built in 1937.
The Bayt Qatar is located in a former art museum.
The British House takes up residence inside a 19th century building called the Parque Lage.
The U.S.A House, located in former school building on Ipanema beach, features murals by Charis Tsevis.
The always-packed Holland Heineken House is located in a 100,000 square-foot sports club in the ritzy neighborhood of Leblon.
South Korea’s PyeongChang House on Copacabana beach is drumming up excitement for the 2018 Winter Olympics, which the city of Pyeongchang will be hosting.
The Tokyo 2020 Japan House has set up its base at the Cidade des Artes, a giant cultural complex in Barra near the main Olympic hub, and will do double duty as it also promotes the Summer Olympics taking place in Tokyo in 2020.