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Not only has watchmaker Omega been the official timekeeper of the Olympics, it’s also been the unofficial social director.
The Omega House has been the center of the swirl in Rio for 10 days running, hosting a who’s who of Hollywood, sports and fashion figures.
Actor Eddie Redmayne, in a white Hardy Amies suit, and his wife Hannah, in McQueen, partied post Opening Ceremony. Brazilian model Alessandra Ambrosio, designer Francisco Costa, style bloggers Helena Lunardelli and Chris Pitanguy have also stopped by. So has Brazilian designer Alexandre Herchcovitch, who created Gisele Bundchen’s show-stopping gold sequin Opening Ceremony look, a gown that took four months to create.
The party pad is located in the historic Casa de Cultura Alvim building and overlooks Ipanema Beach. Formerly a private home, it was donated to the city of Rio by Brazilian arts patron Laura Alvim in the 1980s, and turned into a cultural center.
On the ground floor, an airy white room with tall arched ceilings is kitted out for the run of the Olympics with swings and a stunning waterfall. Displayed in a window case is the original stopwatch from 1932, the year Omega first partnered with the Olympics as official timekeeper, a role it has played ever since.
Prior to that, referees brought their own watches to time events, and they weren’t perfectly calibrated with one other. Just 30 stopwatches were used to time all the Olympics events. Omega saw an opportunity. Ever since, the watch brand’s chronometrically certified stopwatches have brought precise and regularized timekeeping to the games.
On the second floor, themed rooms celebrate Omega’s varied watches. One, decorated in gray tones to look like a chic apartment, displays the brand’s ladies watches. Another, all in white and dotted with faux coral and other sea life made out of fabric, shows off dive watches.
On Aug. 10, astronaut and brand ambassador Buzz Aldrin held court in the outer-space themed room with starry lighting dedicated to Omega watches that have gone to the moon, and guests sipped cocktails made with Tang.
At the Omega House’s “Swimming Legends” party, nearly two dozen towering swimmers and two dozen equally tall rowers — many standing 6’6” or more — waded into the scene. The evening feted three swimmers, all Omega brand ambassadors: the greatest Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, South African swimmer Chad Le Clos (a two-time silver-medal winner in Rio) and Russian swimmer Alexander Popov.
Omega — which has introduced three special watches for the Olympics, including a Speedmaster with subdials in gold, silver and bronze — spent around 14 months completely renovating the Casa de Cultura house to give something back to the community after the games. “This has included a substantial amount of work in every area, from the walls to the staircases and floors,” says Omega president and CEO Raynald Aeschlimann. “The greatest legacy is the renovation of the house’s theater that can now be used to stage plays. Already, Rio’s artistic community are eagerly booking the space for their work.”
In addition to feting stars and athletes, the brand hosted six “waves” of retailers, watch journalists and top collectors during the games, taking them to athletic events; to visit Samba City, a complex of warehouses where many samba schools build their floats and costumes for Carnaval, and to Corcovado mountain for private dinners at the foot of the Christ the Redeemer statue. The brand set up HQ at the new Grand Hyatt on Barra beach, not far from the Olympic Park, where it built out a hospitality lounge.
On the last night that Michael Phelps competed — winning his record 23rd gold medal in the 4X100 medley relay — his entire family hung out in the lounge prior to his swim, including his mother, Deborah; his fiancee, Nicole Johnson; and Phelps’ 3-month-old son, Boomer, already a social media star, who wore red-white-and-blue gold-soled Freshly Picked booties, but no Omega watch — at least not yet.
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