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A little piece of home in Pyeongchang: Slovenia House opens its doors in South Korea

The Slovenia House, also known as the ‘I Feel Slovenia House’, is now officially open. During the Games, it will be a meeting place for athletes, high-level representatives of various sports and Olympic committees, businesspeople, and other visitors who would like the chance to get to know Slovenia a little better.

The ribbon was cut at the unveiling by Slovenian Olympic Committee President Bogdan Gabrovec, Dr Maja Makovec Brenčič, Minister of Education, Science and Sport, and Eva Štravs Podlogar, State Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology.

 

Not every Olympic Games has played host to a Slovenia House, the last time being the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010. Bogdan Gabrovec, Dr Maja Makovec Brenčič and Eva Štravs Podlogar have therefore signed a letter of intent on Slovenia Houses at the next Summer Games in Tokyo in 2020 and the next Winter Games in Beijing in 2022.

 

The Olympic Games are the biggest sports event in the world, bringing together almost all countries on the planet. While athletes at the Olympic Games usually aspire to perfect performances and the best possible results, the biggest sports event in the world has long outgrown the confines of sport. The activities that take place alongside the Games are just as important as those taking place in the sports arenas.

 

The official opening of the I Feel Slovenia House was attended by a large number of friends of Slovenia; these included Dr Janez Kocijančič, President of the European Olympic Committees, former UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon, and Jean Todt, President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile and long-time head of the Ferrari Formula 1 team, along with their spouses. Also present was President of the Serbian Olympic Committee and former Slovenian basketball coach Božidar Maljković.

 

Important meeting point

The Slovenia House is located in Alpensia, right next to the Olympic mountain village and the sports venues for ski jumping, biathlon, cross-country skiing and Alpine technical disciplines. During the Games, it will become a centre for Slovenian sports, tourism and business events.

 

While the athletes fight their battles in the Olympic arenas, the I Feel Slovenia House will host a rich series of events. The centre has become a point of contact for athletes, businesspeople, media representatives and other visitors, and also serves as an information point for promoting Slovenia to the Korean and international public.

 

The project’s main partners and sponsors are the Kolektor company, the state (Slovenian Government Communication Office, Slovenian Tourist Board, SPIRIT, Ministry of Economic Development and Technology) and the Slovenian Olympic Committee. The following companies have also partnered with the project: ELAN, Alpina, Hosekra and the Jezeršek catering and hospitality company. Foreign partners of the project include Panasonic, which is providing screens, and Coca-Cola, which has contributed all the non-alcoholic beverages on offer in the Slovenia House. RTV Slovenija, the national broadcasting corporation, also has its own Olympics studio in the House.

 

One important meeting to take place was that between the Slovenian and Japanese Olympic Committees, which has provided a basis for strengthening sporting cooperation between the two countries. The respective national committees signed an open-ended agreement on cooperation that will last until at least the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020. The agreement provides a good basis for Slovenian athletes, who will be given the opportunity to use training facilities in Japan. At the outset, Japan will offer Slovenia assistance mainly in combat sports, while Japanese kayakers will train in Slovenia. The two countries’ respective rowing associations will sign an agreement at a later date.

 

A large Japanese sports delegation attended the Slovenian House; their number included Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda, General Secretary Eisuke Hiraoka and Executive Board member Keisuke Muratsu. The Slovenian delegation in attendance included Slovenian Olympic Committee President Bogdan Gabrovec, Dr Maja Makovec Brenčič (Minister of Education, Science and Sport), Eva Štravs Podlogar (State Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology) and Simona Leskovar (Slovenian ambassador to Japan).

 

Statements by Slovenian representatives and distinguished guests

In his opening address, Slovenian Olympic Committee President Bogdan Gabrovec said that he was extremely honoured to be able to welcome everyone to the Slovenian environment of the Slovenia House. “We wanted to make this space as Slovenian as possible. I believe we have succeeded.”

 

Dr Maja Makovec Brenčič, Minister of Education, Science and Sport, spoke on behalf of the Slovenian government and of Prime Minister Dr Miro Cerar, saying that she wanted everyone to use the House to “feel Slovenia”. “Sport is a language that brings us all together and is above politics. When athletes achieve excellent results, they motivate and inspire us all. They work hard and have values that unite us. I hope that they will bring us even closer together through these ideas.”

 

Eva Štravs Podlogar, State Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, highlighted the fact that she came from a department that combined business and tourism. “There is great passion in tourism, and our athletes are also the country’s first ambassadors. It is therefore no coincidence that our wonderful Slovenia House is once again making an appearance at an Olympic Games on the 10th anniversary of the “I Feel Slovenia” brand. Our national brand is a very emotional one, in the same way that sport is emotional,” she said.

 

Dr Janez Kocijančič also addressed the gathering, expressing his pleasure at being able to take a part of his country abroad with him. He invited everyone to visit not only the Slovenia House but Slovenia itself.

 

Former UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon delighted everyone in the room by greeting them with the words “Dober dan”, Slovenian for “Hello”. He has long had a connection with Slovenia, having been an ambassador with responsibility for the country. He also gave a few anecdotes about his visits to Slovenia. “Sport is a field in which everyone is equal. We are neither rich nor poor, and it doesn’t matter what political system we have,” he said. He praised Slovenia, the path it has travelled and its environmental-protection efforts, and wished its athletes the very best of luck at the Games. “The most important thing is not to win but to take part, as the Olympic Creed states, and to promote friendship, harmony and peace.”

 

Jean Todt also expressed his enthusiasm for the Slovenia House.  He praised Slovenia’s sporting successes and wished the athletes the best of luck at the Games. “Slovenia is a small but very beautiful country,” he said.

The I Feel Slovenia House has already seen visits by most of the athletes staying in Alpensia, including the entire ice hockey team and their professional and technical support staff. Journalists and a few of the men’s ski-jumping team have also gathered to enjoy the House’s relaxing atmosphere. 

 

There has also been a varied series of business events, with presentations given by Kolektor, Alpina (winter sports footwear) and Elan, with its latest innovation: folding skis. The presidents of the Olympic Committees of South-East European countries have also attended a working meeting.