By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Olympic committee recently announced the return of the popular Olympic hospitality houses for the Rio 2016 Games to be held from August 5th to 21st. More than thirty countries will have thematic hospitality houses in various prime locations throughout the city.
Athletes, officials, invited guests, and the public visiting the hospitality houses will be able to participate in various cultural activities from food tastings, traditional festivals, and other international attractions.
The houses are a recent tradition of the Olympics and were a crowd favorite in both the Beijing and London Olympics. Along with learning about a particular culture or country, it also provides a meeting place for both fans and athletes to mingle and watch the Games live on giant screens.
The United States, Great Britain, China and Russia houses will be limited to athletes, officials and invited guests only, but the majority of the other hospitality houses will be open to the public, with most offering free admission.
These include Switzerland, whose hospitality house on the banks of Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas will give visitors a chance to enjoy Swiss chocolates while ice skating on an ice rink built above the Lagoa baseball field. Denmark’s house, which will be located at Ipanema beach, posto ten, will display a large-scale model of Rio built entirely from Legos.
South Korea will host several days of K-pop concerts and culinary competitions at its house at the Sulamérica Convention Center. Germany will be the only country to have two hospitality houses, both on the beach, on Leblon beach, posto eleven, and at the Blue Point Bar Beach Club, in Barra da Tijuca.
One of the other interesting houses will be Qatar, whose hospitality house will be at the former art museum, Casa Daros.
The site will be transformed into an Arab market where guests will be able to sample shawarmas and get painted with henna. Following the Olympics, Qatar will donate the funds raised from the house to help build a library for a new bilingual school to open on the historic site.
At the Austria house at the Botafogo Club, a restaurant and bakery will open from early morning to late at night, offering guests a selection of Austrian delicacies such as Kornspitz bread and wiener schnitzel. “In Sochi, we were the only ones to offer fresh bread at 6 am,” recalled Austrian chef Wolfgang Mayer.
Host country Brazil will set up the biggest site at the newly renovated port district, Praça Mauá, in downtown Rio. The Brazil hospitality house (Casa Brasil) will occupy two warehouses along the Guanabara Bay waterfront. Visitors will have the chance to enjoy Brazilian coffee and cachaça along with try virtual reality simulators and sports activities.
All of the hospitality houses will be open during the Olympics, but the specific dates and times will vary. More information about the specific dates and locations of the other Olympic houses can be found at the Rio 2016 website.
An estimated 500,000 foreign travelers are expected to visit Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics, the first in South America. Organizers hope six million Brazilians will attend as well.