LONDON – They can be seen all over London: buildings adorned with the colors of different nations, patriotically supporting their countries’ Olympians with displays made up of flags and decorative banners.
These hospitality houses, as they are known, are established by each nation during the Summer Games and serve various purposes. Some nations open their houses to the public in hopes of promoting tourism and business in their countries. Others use their houses to host political figures and VIPs. Some simply want a place to celebrate medals.
But not every nation has a house, and it’s that void the House of Nations fills.
Located in the moat of the historic Tower of London, the House of Nations is a pop-up, international Olympic luxury tent for smaller nations that don’t have their own venues in London.
Simon Mitchell, project director for the House of Nations, developed the idea after his team traveled the world for three years meeting with different nations and Olympic families. Mitchell said in most cases smaller nations are using their embassies as home base. He said he is proud to offer services to these smaller countries that take advantage of the venue, especially when there is something to commemorate.
“For instance, when one of their participants wins a medal, they want to celebrate and we can provide somewhere for them to do that that is a safe environment with (television) screens, where we can look after them and they can invite guests,” Mitchell said.
Several nations have utilized the venue, Mitchell said, including New Zealand, which used the House of Nations for a celebration, and Finland, which will host the country’s prime minister at the house for a celebration later this week.
The fun and games isn’t reserved only for political leaders and Olympic athletes; the House of Nations is also open to the public. With numerous flat-screen televisions, two bars, food stations and games on the lawn, there is plenty for visitors to do.
Mike Badower, an Arizona State University graduate from Minneapolis, is visiting London with his family to take in the games. He said aside from getting to watch the events on television, the House of Nations is different because the location gives people a true London experience.
“It’s an interesting feel. You’re basically in the Tower of London,” Badower said. “The views are great; you can’t beat it.”
Perhaps the most unique opportunity the House of Nations provides is the chance for visitors to pose with an official Olympic Torch from the Olympic Torch Relay. Visitors embrace the chance to get a photograph with a piece of history.
When Londoners Emlyn James and Laura Keeble arrived, they found their way to the torch immediately.
“It’s cool. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that the Olympics come to town, and it’s nice to get a picture with it,” James said.