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Airbnb’s Online Olympic Experience Brings the Spirit of the Summer Games to Zoom

Kells McPhillips

Kells McPhillipsJuly 16, 2020

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Photo: Airbnb

On March 24th, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) officially postponed the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games to July 2021 due to the health concerns surrounding COVID-19. But as it turns out, you won’t have to skip out on the excitement of sport this year just because the opening ceremonies won’t be happening. That’s because starting July 24, Airbnb is hosting a five-day festival of Zoom-friendly activities led by the world’s greatest Paralympians and Olympians.

In partnership with the IOC and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Airbnb is putting on the Olympic tourism opportunity of a lifetime. And it doesn’t even require leaving your house. Throughout the five days, the company will pack in 100 different events (up to $30 each) that include workouts, cooking classes, inspirational workouts and beyond. All will be led by athletes, including Paralympic long jump silver-medalist Lex Gillette, four-time world champion surfer Carissa Moore, and beach volleyball champion Kerri Walsh Jennings. (You can go ahead and book eight of these events today.)

“At a time when it is difficult for people to gather and celebrate the exceptional performance of athletes, Airbnb is proud to host the summer festival, which is a new way to experience the Olympic and Paralympic spirit online,” said Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb, in a press release. “Guests will be able to connect and interact with some of the most elite competitors within the Olympic and Paralympic Movement, giving them even more reasons to cheer them on next year.”

“Guests will be able to connect and interact with some of the most elite competitors within the Olympic and Paralympic Movement, giving them even more reasons to cheer them on next year.” —Joe Gebbia, co-founder of Airbnb

It’s true that each event shares an intimacy with athletes that ordinary people may have never experienced without the influence of the pandemic. Tennis player Sania Mirza will teach her “grand slam” training routine and marathoner Meb Keflezighi will teach a master class on breaking your own boundaries, for example.

And even though you may be spending more time inside than ever before, working out with and cooking alongside Olympians—even if just digitally—do seem like pretty life-affirming experiences. I thought so, at least, which is why I was so excited to preview Gillette’s Airbnb experience.

Photo: Airbnb

In his Airbnb experience, the world-champion athlete, who is blind, takes guests through his Paralympic training experience and focuses on the notion that you don’t need sight in order to have a vision. Hearing his story of losing the ability to see, only to eventually find his sport of running, truly felt like an immersive, pull-back-the-curtain kind of experience. He looked straight into the camera and talked to a small group of participants via Zoom about his training, how he navigates the world without eyes, and what the experience is like to jump through the air with no visibility of the ground. The experience was exceptional and proof positive that—no matter how awful Zoom calls may sometimes feel—they may still be our best bet for keeping human connection alive as the fight against COVID-19 wears on.

“Paralympians and Para-athletes are masters of innovation and finding creative solutions to daily challenges they face,” said IPC President Andrew Parsons. “The summer festival of Olympian and Paralympian Online Experiences celebrates this tenacity and gives Para-athletes a platform to share their stories to empower others.” Frankly, we could all use the spirit of the Olympic Games right now. So while you might not be using Airbnb to reserve the faraway tropical bungalow of your summer-vacation dreams, you’d be smart to consider using the booking platform to claim your spot for a once-in-a-lifetime Zoom experience.

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