U.S. Welcome Pavilion

SLC-based nonprofit promotes U.S. on world stage.

Breanna Olaveson May 1, 2016

If the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro are like other Olympic Games, spectators will experience dramatic finishes, inspiring triumphs and heartbreaking defeats. And, thanks to the efforts of the United States Welcome Pavilion Foundation, they may also come away with a more positive view of the United States.

“Our purpose is really to showcase our great country by utilizing the largest international gathering as our platform,” says Maxine Turner, president of the U.S. Welcome Pavilion Foundation, a nonprofit. “But my personal goal is that we have a place open to the public where, for the first time, we can welcome the local community and spectators of the games. Rio expects as many as 8 million in their city come this August. There is no bigger stage for us to have a presence.”

That place is the U.S. Welcome Pavilion — an 8,000-square-foot pavilion that aims to attract visitors, entertain sponsors’ clients, promote U.S. tourism, celebrate culture and encourage trade. The proposed location for the pavilion is the Jockey Club in Ipanema, near hotels, tourist sites, other national houses and places of interest.

Open Hospitality Center

Turner, who also founded Cuisine Unlimited Catering & Special Events and has catered nationally and internationally, had the idea for the U.S. Welcome Pavilion years ago after her involvement with other projects at the Olympics. She learned about USA House, which officially represents the United States but is open by invitation only.

“We want to complement their efforts by providing an open-to-the-public hospitality center where we can showcase our country, convey the goodwill of the American people, and where athletes can come and enjoy as they wish,” Turner says.

Turner outlined her vision in writing and sent it to several groups in Salt Lake City, including government officials. It was well-received and, soon, Turner gained national support and began raising funds for the undertaking she calls “the most rewarding and most challenging project” of her career.

Downsizing to Grow

Coca-Cola was the U.S. Welcome Pavilion’s first sponsor. But as volunteers solicited more support from major corporations, it seemed the pavilion would fall short of the $50 million needed to debut in Rio. An economic downturn in Brazil combined with an overly aggressive strategy jeopardized the program. Turner downsized, making sponsorship more affordable. And instead of a 16-day presence in Rio, the pavilion would be open for three days.

“We’ve reached back out to our corporate network and found that this change made all the difference,” Turner says. “We feel like we’ve had an opportunity to breathe life back into this program.”

Where From Here

After Rio, Turner says, she plans to continue the program at future games as well as at the FIFA World Cup and World Expo.

“We’re not in this to make money,” Turner says. “That is why we established this under a foundation. We’re in this to finally give our country a presence at international events that brings people together in celebration. It’s about being an active participant in the global community.”

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