My comrades from TheNew York Times this week anointed the Russia House -- and its glittering party scene -- as the must-hit spot of the Turin Games. The headline left no doubt: IN PARTIES AS WELL AS PODIUMS, RUSSIA IS RED-HOT.
It's true. Bosco-mania (the nom de couture for the Russian luxury clothing company, Bosco di Ciliegi) has hit Turin with the force of a Darius Kasparaitis body check, and everybody here is getting their Vladimir Putin on. Or at least putting one of Putin's country's hats and jackets on. I had to see the hype for myself. When I headed to Russia House earlier this week, I discovered one of the most wondrous sights of the Olympic Games: a fifth-floor rooftop pavilion with people skating on an outdoor skating rink. Couple that with free vodka shots and you'd be crooning Back in the USSR as well. Is Russia House hot? Da.
But, comrades, it's not the hottest spot of the Games. When it comes to Olympic cool, the color is orange. Always has been. Always will be. The Holland Heineken House owns the crown when it comes to the best house in Turin, and not only because Crown Prince Willem-Alexander walks around here in blue jeans. The Dutch people, for all of us who have imbibed the heaven that is Amsterdam, are the world's most welcoming lot. Russia House is cool, but as soon as I mistakenly headed for a wrong part of the building, a large gentleman gave me a look that said I'd be Do svidanja-ed if I took another step. "What distinguishes us is that we really are an open house, open to all nationalities," said Claire Caron, the official spokesperson of the Holland House. "The Dutch are very informal people."
The Holland House roots date to 1992 when its doors opened to just a handful of people in Barcelona. It has gained popularity for each successive Olympics. On Wednesday, the Holland House passed 50,000 visitors at these Games. I added to that number earlier today, a journey I also made at Salt Lake City and Athens and will continue to make until Sports Illustrated realizes that it is paying me to drink beer in foreign countries.
The house (which has a staff of 230, all of whom are contractually bound to wear orange) is the second home in Turin for Dutch athletes and their families, sponsors, Dutch journalists and, well, anyone who wants that Orange feeling. I could think of no better place to watch the men's 10,000-meter speedskating event because to watch speedskating with the Dutch is to experience funk and nationalism all in one.