Many countries set up hospitality houses during the Olympics to entertain their officials, sponsors and athletes. Most are in a secret location and closed to the public. Some, like Switzerland’s “House 2008“, will be open to the public. The House, located in the trendy 798 artists’ district, features a bar/lounge, restaurant, cinema and exhibits.
I was able to get a sneak peak at the facility on Friday night after the expats I was hanging out with negotiated (uh, barged) us inside. The house was still closed to the public and was hosting a private party for invited guests. After standing stubbornly at the entrance for five minutes, the security guards called the director of the House. He promptly whisked us inside, even apologizing for the minor commotion.
He took us to the bar, where we enjoyed drinks on the House. A view of the bar area:
A few interesting notes from our conversation with the gracious and gentlemanly director:
— He said security procedures have been much tighter and stricter compared to 2004 in Athens. He had to wait six months for the Chinese government to approve the site. He not only brought his own security from Switzerland, but he also had to hire Chinese security as well.
— When he visited the U.S. hospitality house in Athens, security was so tight and the location so secretive that he was blindfolded before getting into the car that took him there.
— He was proud that Switzerland has one of the few hospitality houses that’s open to the public. Perhaps that’s why Switzerland hasn’t been in a war in nearly two centuries.
The director sat with us for an hour or so before he had to head out to dinner. We probably had three rounds of drinks, all supplied by our hosts. After experiencing such hospitality, I’m booking my flight to Zurich for 2009. Anyone care to join me?
The highlight of the night, however, was the man who walked right into a glass partition thinking it was the exit out of the bar. If you’ve ever had a bird crash into your window, then you know the sound he made — a loud bang that reverberated the glass. Sadly, I neglected to get the photo of the smudge his face made on the glass.