Saturday, October 25, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

NBC has a secret Olympic Starbucks in Sochi

Sochi's Olympic Village is supposed to be a black hole for international brands. Athletes, journalists, spectators, and workers are not supposed to be able to just walk down the street and grab a Whopper and a Pepsi because McDonald's and Coca-Cola and other such companies have spent good money to be the exclusive providers of certain goods and services inside the Olympic Village.

NBC has a secret Olympic Starbucks in Sochi

Starbucks sign, Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, June 2013. (Reid Kanaley/staff)
Starbucks sign, Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, June 2013. (Reid Kanaley/staff)

Sochi's Olympic Village is supposed to be a black hole for international brands. Athletes, journalists, spectators, and workers are not supposed to be able to just walk down the street and grab a Whopper and a Pepsi because McDonald's and Coca-Cola and other such companies have spent good money to be the exclusive providers of certain goods and services inside the Olympic Village.

This means that most of the people visiting Sochi would do unspeakable things for a grande skinny carmel macchiato.

There isn't supposed to be a Starbucks in Sochi. Technically, the closest operating Starbucks locations is 350 miles away in something called a Rostov-on-Don, which is, apparently, an actual place in Russia.

Anyway, all of these folks were thought to have been suffering the Winter Games without their necessary red eye shots and blueberry scones until a journalist for NPR noticed someone with the iconic green-and-white cup. He tailed the cups owner in an attempt to discover the source.

NBC.

But after Mr. Glinton, a journalist for NPR, trailed the mystery cup for several hundred feet, its owner told him that he was out of luck. It came from the "office," she said—the Olympic broadcasting center where NBC has its own secret Starbucks.

The media giant, which paid $775 million for exclusive U.S. broadcasting rights for the Games, has erected the Sochi Starbucks in its cordoned-off area of the Olympic media center. Baristas serve the free java 24-hours-a-day to the roughly 2,500 people NBC says it sent here.

Technically, it's classified as a "personal item." It operates inside an NBC facility. NBC and Starbucks cooperate to staff the place 24 hours/day with a rotating staff of 57 baristas flown in from other locations in Russia. Seriously.

There is precedent here. NBC has set up its own personal Starbucks at every Olympics since the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, according to Mr. Fritsche. But Sochi is only the second time NBC has brought Starbucks to a city that doesn't have one. Turin, the coffee-rich site of the 2006 Winter Games, was the other.

Starbucks opened its first shop in Russia in 2007 and now has 69 outlets in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Rostov-on-Don. A spokeswoman for the company said Starbucks is planning to open a shop in Sochi later this year. [WSJ]
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