Perched at the top of a small grassy hill, the IOC looks out over Lake Geneva and the public park, Parc Bourget. The IOC is made up of a few buildings pasted together over the years including a mansion that was centuries old. The entire area was once occupied by the Roman Empire and recent archeological evidence shows bones and ruins dating back to 6,000 BC.
I must explain that I missed pieces of the tour. Unfortunately this was our first stop after arriving from London the night before and with the 9-hour time difference and the jet lag migraine bubbling up in my head, I had to excuse myself from the tour a few times. After my intermittent absence I rejoined the tour group but as a result I didn’t take nearly as many notes on this tour as I could have.
Inside the IOC much of it seemed like your standard office building, with more than a few high-tech and upscale elements. The one thing that stood out most was the art work. Culture being one of the Three Pillars of the Olympic movement, the building featured statues, installations, paintings, and sculptures on every floor and down every corridor.
Olympic-branded candies sat in a dish outside one of many meeting rooms with dominating wooden doors, behind which I could only imagine the importance of the business being discussed.
There was a modern cafeteria for employees where chefs prepare culinary creations for staff daily. The eating area had dark wood floors, modular furniture and a full view of the lake from the floor-to-ceiling windows. On a pillar near the employee lounge/cafeteria were bulletins, including one promoting the Vancouver 2010 exhibit over at the Olympic Museum.
Our guide explained that just out the window and to the West was the local waste treatment plant and that energy produced from the waste when it is treated actually supplies power and heat for the IOC buildings. With Environment being yet another one of the Three Pillars of the Olympic Movement it seemed quite fitting.
From there we walked through a few more boardrooms, each more impressive than the next with flat screen televisions, branded pens, and bottles of water on standby as though half a dozen meetings were about to convene at the same time.
We crossed over to the old IOC building, which is the mansion and home of the smallest meeting room we had seen yet, although it was the most distinguished. This was where top-ranking IOC officials get together with IOC President, Count Jacques Rogge.
I’m unsure if they do tours normally but it was a nice familiarization of a beautiful complex that simply emanates excellence, right down to the Olympic-branded Mercedes parked out front.
On our way out some protesters started to gather on the front lawn. They had t-shirts, signs, and appeared to have invited local media – either that or they brought their own troop of photographers. We were inside the building as the group began chanting outside and two of them walked over to the entrance. Pausing outside for a photo op, we watched as the protesters chatted politely with the women at the front reception desk. After a few minutes they came back outside, picked up their signs, and continued their display. No security, no men in suits with earpieces coming to take them away. They pretty much just walked to the other side of the street on their own and continued peacefully. For some reason I suspect that this isn’t a rare occurrence at all outside the IOC.
We hopped in our tour van and headed for the the Olympic Museum but not before our guide pointed out that there’s a campground next to Parc Bourget and the IOC. To camp on Lake Geneva, in a place as historic as this, surrounded by dozens of international sporting federations and museums just seemed like something we’d have to do when John and I go back to Switzerland. We’ll even see if our pal Dave wants to come as it seems like something he’d really get a kick out of.