“We had really been looking forward to celebrating with athletes … after they won medals”

Many missed celebrations

In recognition of the preparations made for European national houses


JUNE 2021 Feature / Text by Andrew Howitt / Photo © VisitDenmark

If this were a normal Olympic year, many countries would soon be opening their national houses and pavilions. These spaces, which can take years to plan, give countries a chance to promote tourism and business, host cultural events, and provide their athletes with a place to connect with the media — and to party.

However, this is not a normal Olympic year. Unfortunately, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, most of these hospitality houses have had to be modified significantly or else cancelled entirely.

In recognition of the hard work that went into preparations for the European national houses for the Tokyo 2020 Games, Eurobiz Japan has compiled an overview of what five nations planned.

Austria House

The planning of Austria House for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics began at the Rio Games in 2016, and the search for a venue started in 2018.

According to Ingomar Lochschmidt of trade promotion organisation Advantage Austria, “a lot of effort was put in, with a dozen or more trips made between Austria and Japan, in addition to our own work locally”.

Under the theme “Austrian hospitality”, the cancelled Austria House was to open in the heart of Shibuya. With a large outdoor space, it would have given the public a chance to try some Austrian food and drink, hear some of the nation’s music, see some of its art and technology, and get a feel for typical Austrian design.

There also would have been an invitation-only VIP area for athletes, sponsors, company representatives, media, as well as government and Olympic officials.

“We had really been looking forward to celebrating with athletes from Austria and other countries after they won medals,” says Lochschmidt.

The Land of Everyday Wonder

The main aim of Denmark’s The Land of Everyday Wonder pavilion was to showcase Danish solutions for achieving greater sustainability. The walls were to have been constructed with interlocking chairs — made from wood offcuts and recycled plastic — that would have been reused after the pavilion had been dismantled.

“The vision for the Danish pavilion was to inspire and invite dialogue on the issues of innovative and sustainable urban solutions that can support cities around the world in offering their citizens a better quality of life,” said a statement from VisitDenmark, Denmark’s tourism organisation, and one of the main partners of the pavilion project.

The 400m2 pavilion would have been assembled in Hibiya Park, and it would have been used for a number of activities, including PR events, B2B gatherings, workshops, and exhibitions.

Although this project has been cancelled, a mini-pavilion will be open to the public at the Embassy of Denmark in Japan. Also called The Land of Everyday Wonder, it will carry the same message of the urgent need to realise the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Deutsches Haus (Home of Team D)

The search for the location of Germany’s Deutsches Haus started in the summer of 2017. After some 40 venues were screened and 10 delegations from Germany visited, the Aqua City complex in Odaiba was chosen, both for its close proximity to the Olympic Village and for its stunning views of Tokyo Bay.

Organised by Deutsche Sport Marketing, with project planning conducted by Messe Düsseldorf, Deutsches Haus was designed to hold up to 800 guests a day and would have hosted a range of activities — including hospitality events and press conferences — as well as being a place to showcase sponsors’ products and services.

“The German House would have been a great place for Team D athletes to relax and meet with family and friends,” says Ansgar Jung of Messe Düsseldorf Japan. “Because of its location in the midst of many Olympic venues, we know it would have been a central meeting point for many people.”

TeamNL Tokyo Centre

The concept behind the Netherlands’ national house, TeamNL Tokyo Centre, was the nexus of food–water–energy, high-tech solutions, sustainability, and vitality. Plans to build a floating pavilion for medal celebrations and business promotions began in the autumn of 2017. A location in the Port of Tokyo had been designated by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

The Netherlands also had planned to have a second hospitality house for medal celebrations in Ariake and a business promotion expo in Kioicho.

“The NOC*NSF and the Dutch government have always had the ambition of showing businesses and society the extraordinary possibilities of sport, and this is still our ambition,” states Paul Zwetsloot, minister counsellor for economic affairs at the Embassy of the Netherlands in Japan.

After the TeamNL Tokyo Centre was cancelled, a digital national house, called TeamNL Tokyo Expo (teamnltokyoexpo.com), was launched. It will include features such as business events, an innovation parade, and a newsfeed on Olympic events.

Home of Finland

Petri Asikainen, Business Finland

Not every European national house has been cancelled. Construction on the Finnish pavilion, on the embassy grounds, started in October 2019 and was completed last September.

The key themes of the Home of Finland are sustainability, technology, and nature. It was built with ecologically sustainable, reusable Kerto® laminated veneer lumber, produced by the firm Metsä Wood. The interior was planned by the well-known designer Ulla Koskinen, and a number of firms provided a variety of furniture, making the pavilion a spectacular showcase of Finnish design.

“Through this project, we aim to promote and strengthen the Finnish country brand in Japan and also to showcase Finnish expertise and knowhow,” says Nita Pilkama, programme director at Business Finland.

Every day during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, the Home of Finland will be hosting in-person or hybrid events, all of which will require pre-registration or an invitation. It will remain open until the end of the year.

“it would have been a central meeting point for many people”