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China House stays low-key

Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo visited China House. - Russ Beinder photo
Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo visited China House.
— image credit: Russ Beinder photo

In stark contrast to the always-bustling Holland Heineken House, Richmond’s other Olympic nation venue, China House, has been keeping things quiet.

Lulu Island Winery is hosting the Chinese Olympic Committee’s first ever nation house during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and the private, invitation-only venue has been holding nightly receptions for about 30 to 40 people.

“They’ve designed it as low-key and that’s basically the way it’s been kept,” said Mike Curran, the winery’s marketing manager. “We’ve had lots of athletes here,” he added.

Among them are Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, the husband and wife figure skating duo who secured China’s first gold medal of the Games. The silver medallists in pairs figure skating, Qing Pang and Jian Tong, as well as China’s short track speed skating medallists have also visited.

The day after China took home gold and silver in pairs figure skating was one of the busier nights at China House, as was Chinese New Year’s Eve and last Saturday, when members of the International Olympic Committee were invited to the house. Curran said the busier nights have drawn up to 80 guests.

China House operates most nights until 10:30 p.m., but stays open to midnight on evenings with larger celebrations.

About 250 athletes, coaches, officials and media were expected to visit the house over the two weeks. All are staying in the Olympic Village or hotels.

Lulu Island Winery received approval from the city and the Agricultural Land Commission to host the Chinese Olympic Committee and its guests in January, but not before raising concerns from farmers and local politicians.

Plans to temporarily transform the farm-based winery on Westminster Highway into an entertainment venue had some neighbours worried about potential parking problems and heavy traffic. The winery quickly canned the idea of fireworks on Chinese New Year because of concerns and Curran said most guests have been shuttled to the site in Olympic vans, which seat six or seven people.

The winery and tasting rooms have remained open during the day.

“It’s encouraged a lot of the media to come out when the winery’s open,” says Curran, who’s done interviews with American and Russian media.

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