Winter Olympics Journal

February 17, 2010 2:31 AM

Austria's in the house! So is Slovenia, Switzerland, Norway

P1010031.JPGAt every Olympics these days, many countries have their own "houses." It's a place for people from a particular nation to gather, watch the Games on TV, cheer on their own athletes, and well, drink.

Sometimes, they're open to the public, most times not. Lately, it's a place where bigwig corporate sponsors and guests can feel like fans with a backstage pass -- they get to meet athletes who have just won medals before the morning shows get them.

Sometimes, it's a safe haven for athletes needing to steal a few moments away from the hubbub. Michael Phelps, for example, got some quiet time at USA House during Beijing.

At Whistler, we're trying to visit them all. Today, it was Austria House, which features employees who speak the language and dress in traditional clothing, a post office selling stamps with famous athletes, and serves beer to the public at happy hour. It also has a giant mouse made from aluminum or steel rods out front. (We'll have to get back to you on that.)

Among the "houses" are Slovenia, Canada, the USA, Sweden and, for the first time at an Olympics, Pride House, which promotes diversity. This is Canada, after all. Norway House might not be so happy these days (their Nordic team is causing national angst because they're still medal-less), but they have waffles.

Austria House is brand new and labeled a "passive house," not because it's boring, but because of its sustainable energy features. It will become a lodge for Whistler's cross-country center after the Games.

Swiss House is promoting its "Swiss cuisine." Fondue, anyone?

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