Before the 2012 London Olympics wrapped up the final competitions and unveiled the music-packed Closing Ceremony, this “American Lummox in London” decided to ease his reintroduction into American life by visiting the U.S. Olympic Team’s social and media headquarters for the Games – USA House.
Situated in the Royal College of Art on High Street Kensington near Queen Victoria’s Kensington Palace and the Royal Albert Hall, the USA House offered sponsors, athletes, their families, coaches and other team members safe haven in London when they were away from the Olympic Village.
The House also allowed fans of USA athletics a place to meet, shop for official Team USA merchandise and view artifacts from past Olympics – including Torches from the 1984 Los Angeles and 1996 Atlanta Games alongside medals from London’s 1908 and 1948.
The Royal College of was chosen by the United States Olympic Committee for its upscale location, facilities and history. The Committee estimates it hosted more than 1,000 visitors a day during this Olympic summer.
While the 1960s-built structure doesn’t stand out amongst the centuries-old architecture of London and Westminster, the College put out its share of legendary alumni with Sir David Hockney, Sir James Dyson and Sir Ridley Scott all graduating from its modern class rooms.
These houses were set up all over London in different official venues. For example, Italy House (Casa Italia) was situated a short walk from the London Media Centre off Parliament Square inside the Queen Elisabeth II Conference Centre in the shadow of Westminster Abbey.
Sadly, the combined African Village that was to combine all teams and nations of that continent was shut down in the middle of the Olympic Fortnight over repotted financial disputes. Essentially, the organizers of the village were not paying their bills to the providers of their tents and facilities. That turned out to be one of the bleaker stories of the Games around London and an embarrassment to combined African Olympics efforts.
While I visited USA House, I took a moment to enjoy the officially sponsor approve Budweiser Bar and McDonald's Coffee area. WIth breakfast, lunch and dinner on the daily menu, the official visitors could chow down while watching all USA Olympic events on multiple big screens. If the kids got bored with the televised sports, they could take part in interactive sporting demonstrations – sometimes with Olympic athletes or their coaching staffs.
Finally, whenever USA athletes had medal-winning successes (and there were plenty of those, considering how America dominated the medal count), official press conferences with the athletes were usually held at the USA House.
During my visit late in the Olympic run, there was a feeling of “last day of school” as staff were organizing the end of Games teardown. Everything in the Team USA gift shop was 50% off to unload inventory that would otherwise have to be shipped back across the Atlantic.
Watching the energy build toward the closing of USA House was really the first “in your face” reminder that the 2012 London Olympiad was really and truly coming to a close.