Switzerland has officially started its Olympic 2012 countdown in London.
The House of Switzerland is to take up residence in Glaziers Hall, an old butter wharf on the south bank of the River Thames, for more than three weeks before and during the London Olympics.
Celebrities, dignitaries, athletes and the public will share the ‘Swiss experience’ under one roof.
The House of Switzerland is one of the few guest centres at the Olympic Games open to the public.
Medal ceremonies, celebrity appearances and music events are expected to ensure a lively and fun few weeks for Swiss fans.
And breaking with tradition to host the event in a single venue, this Swiss spectacle will spill out onto the surrounding squares, roads and alleyways creating a mini Swiss village, where visitors can enjoy the very best of Swiss culture, cuisine and business creativity.
Some SFr4.5 million has been set aside for this Olympic extravaganza. It might seem a high price for such a short space of time, but Nicolas Bideau, Head of Presence Switzerland, the body responsible for promoting Switzerland at the Olympic Games, believes it is worth it.
“London 2012 will be an incredible opportunity to talk about Switzerland,” he told swissinfo.ch,
“The world’s media will be here and reporting will not only be about the sporting events. Side attractions will also be covered. So with a good House, it will be possible to add new perceptions about Switzerland.”
Despite a limited number of Swiss medal contenders the organisers are still confident they can pull in the crowds.
Bideau is also convinced London 2012 will be a huge marketing opportunity for sponsors.
“It’s not really about sport.” he said, “It’s a global event with sport in the middle of something huge. This is about sport and culture, sport and food, sport and society.”
Bideau went on to say it would be ridiculous for Switzerland not to have a strong presence at London 2012, just because the country did not play a commanding role in summer sporting events.
A creative playground
2,500 square metres of one of London’s top riverside locations will be transformed into a Swiss playground.
Traditional English pubs will turn into rustic Swiss chalets. There will be an open-air stage for Swiss music and cultural performances and a large screen in the courtyard outside Glaziers Hall will bring live TV coverage of all major events at the various stadiums.
Distinctive red pathways and bold red signs are planned to let the 250,000 expected visitors know they are in Little Switzerland.
The design and branding of the indoor, as well as outside, areas will be tastefully adapted to portray the image of a fresh, modern and versatile Switzerland.
Flavour of Switzerland
Trendy Swiss gastronomy will be one of the highlights of the House of Switzerland and the prestigious Swiss caterers Mosimann’s will provide the hospitality.
This renowned Swiss family, known for its top quality cuisine, has already catered for both the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010.
Philipp Mosimann, Managing Director at Mosimann’s in London, plans to bring a playful element to his creative fusions of Bernese, Swiss and British specialities during London 2012.
“We will focus on three food concepts,” he said, “each showcasing a distinctive side of Swiss food. There will be something for everybody from bratwurst, roesti, chocolates to fine dining.”
The Mug House, which is a unique Victorian-style Wine bar and Ale house situated at the last remaining arch of the original London Bridge and only a few metres from Glaziers Hall, will be transformed into a Bernese chalet.
“It will look invitingly rustic, with comfort foods like fondue and raclette on the menu,” Mosimann said. “And the focus will be on dishes from one of the most beautiful mountain regions in Switzerland, the Bernese Oberland.”
A Swiss Brasserie is planned in Glaziers Hall itself offering signature dishes from Mosimann’s, as well as contemporary dishes from various Swiss cantons. And there will also be a “grab and go” option offering good quality convenience foods in the style of the nearby Borough Market.
Neighbouring Southwark Cathedral's Millennium Courtyard space and public restaurant The Refectory will also form an integral part of the House of Switzerland.
Earlier in the year, the Anglican acting Dean of Southwark, Canon Andrew Nunn, had expressed his pleasure at the future collaboration with the Swiss community.
"We are delighted to be in partnership with our neighbours and with the people of Switzerland during the 2012 Olympics," he said.
"This will be an exciting time for all the people of London and we look forward to welcoming people of all nations to the cathedral in the spirit of the Olympic movement.”
An Olympic Tradition
The history of the House of Switzerland dates back to 1998, when the inaugural venue opened its doors at the Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan.
Swiss athletes, the official delegations, as well as fans met in the House of Switzerland and enjoyed their common enthusiasm for sports.
Since then, the House of Switzerland has developed from a regulars’ table to a comprehensive platform for Switzerland’s communication abroad.
Today, the House of Switzerland is known as:
- the official Swiss guest house at the Olympic summer and winter Games
- a rendezvous place for the Swiss Olympic Team
- a well-established brand at the Olympic Games
- a marketing and event platform for the Swiss economy, tourism and culture, as well as innovation industry.
The House of Switzerland is one of the few national guest centres at the Olympic Games open to the public, and is intended for a wide local and international audience.
It was conceived as a public-private partnership project and is designed to facilitate close collaboration between official partners and sponsors from the Swiss private sector.end of infobox