Monday, September 28, 2015

Supreme Court, IOC, FIVB, CAS and more in Lausanne, Switzerland

With a population of 130,000 Lausanne is only the fifth largest city in Switzerland. Yet it is home to the Federal Tribunal (pictured above)--Switzerland's equivalent to the US Supreme Court.  When passing the courthouse the other day I noticed the US flag flying atop so, me being me, I had to go inside to find out why. A delegation from the US was visiting. Didn't think much about it until the next day when US Attorney General Loretta Lynch was on television in Zurich holding a news conference concerning the ongoing investigation into FIFA. If like me you aren't into soccer then you probably don't know FIFA (Federation International Football Federation) is the world governing body for soccer. FIFA is the one who puts on the World Cup every four years. Take the number of people who watch the NFL's Super Bowl, add the people who watch baseball's World's Series, hockey's Stanley Cup, the NBA finals PLUS, add in the Olympics and you still don't come close to the World Cup, the most popular sporting event in the world.

Check my blog back in July 2011 and you'll see photos of FIFA's fancy head office in Zurich.  When visiting companies back in 2002 I twice attempted to visit FIFA at their previous opulent offices in Zurich and each time received a real crummy reception (to read the story go to, click on "Archived Stories", them scroll to "Archive Three").

About three blocks from the Federal Tribunal in Lausanne stands this unassuming building--home to the CAS. Doesn't ring a bell?
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is like the Supreme Court for sports. During the Olympics when an athlete gets disqualified or stripped of his/her medal for doping or a soccer player gets suspended for fighting or a cyclist in the Tour de France gets booted or stripped of his medal for drug use (remember Floyd Landis)---the CAS is the last court of appeal for an athelete.
I've posted pictures of this before but, since we're talking about sports--Lausanne is home to the IOC, the International Olympic Committee. The is the villa on Lausanne's lakeside where IOC President Thomas Bach has his office
This building, connected via a glass walkway to the villa, houses more staff of the IOC. The Olympics is BIG business with billions of dollars flowing around. Not that far back the IOC had to deal with scandals similar to FIFA concerning payoffs, bribes and so on.
Which leads me to this place near Lausanne's train station. This is the home to FIG--Federation International Gymnastics. The previous building tenant was the FIVB--Federation International Volleyball.
What's the new address for the FIVB? This fancy villa on Lausanne's lakeside (click on the image to enlarge).  The Lake Geneva lakeside in Lausanne at the turn-of-the-century was lined with opulent villas. What the heck is a volleyball association doing with property like this? I spent more than 20 years cycling the globe visiting the head offices of more 4,000 companies and organizations and I've seen my share of ego-driven plush trophy offices. Unless the place was bequeathed to the FIVB I think it's a scandal for them to use association funds to purchase this property. The grounds are immaculate and the building is a real beauty. They're doing some kind of construction on the property and don't know if it's another building or a volleyball court.

So, getting back to FIG (Federation International Gymnastics). Remember the picture earlier of their offices (formerly the offices of FIVB (volleyball)? Look at the next photo.

This new building under construction--right next door to FIG's current offices--when finished will be FIG's new offices! Simply amazing that these sports federations need to have fancy digs.  Many, many sports federations are headquartered in Lausanne due to the IOC (International Olympic Committee) being based here. Wait until I show you pictures of the pink villa housing the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Watches, Soccer, Basketball, Chateaus Around Geneva, Switzerland

It's 35 miles from Lausanne (where I live) to Geneva. I used to cycle the 70 mile round trip but wasn't able to spend much time in Geneva because by the time I arrived it was time to head back, Now, I hop on a train and cycle back from Geneva.

Residential property in Geneva is very expensive--some of the most expensive in the world--especially if it overlooks or fronts Lake Geneva.  My past couple of visits to Geneva involved trying to find the estate of Saudi Arabia's king. The king usually makes a summer visit to Geneva and arrives with not one but, two 747 Boeing aircraft--with him in the first plane and his 400 servants in the second. Several years ago a newspaper published an aerial view of the property and I've narrowed down the area but, it isn't easy. Why? Besides Geneva being a financial center it's also home to dozens and dozens of world organizations such as the World Trade Organization, World Health Organization, International Red Cross and quite a few United Nations agencies.  Though Bern is Switzerland's capital and countries have embassies there--most countries also have embassies/missions here because of the UN presence. In this area stands a very large USA complex called the "Permanent Mission of the United States of America to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva". The countryside around this area of Geneva is beautiful with heavily wooded forests, narrow winding roads and picturesque vineyards and tall walls surrounding huge estates with lots of security. Quite a few countries have large properties in this area--though not as large as the USA's. The area reminds me of cycling around the countryside of Greenwich, CT or Rancho Santa Fe, California.

Anyway, to give you an idea of the area the picture above is one of the entrances to the Rothschild estate (banking).
This wrought iron gate is the main entrance to the Rothschild estate. I'm heading back to Lausanne after again failing to find the Saudi king's home.
Over the summers of 2003 and 2004 I visited the head offices of more than 100 Swiss watch companies. In 2002 I visited Franck Muller Watchland and remembered the fantastic setting. It's just by accident I happen to cycle past the place today and am curious to see what's changed. The above picture is the original building on the property,  an 80,000 square foot, three-story neo-gothic 19th century building referred to as the "Manor".

Going around the backside of the manor you have this fantastic view toward Lake Geneva (don't forget if you click on any picture they'll enlarge). See the building (150,000 square feet) on the left side--there's a similar building on the right side but I couldn't get 'em both in the same photo. This is where watches are assembled.

 A view back to the "Manor". That green structure is new since my last visit.
This is a huge construction hole. See the name "Franck Muller" in big letters in the distance? That chateau behind the letters is also part of the property. In fact, the site covers 40 acres and the whole complex goes by the name Watchland. Started in 1991, founder & still boss Franck Muller hasn't done too bad--with sales of almost $300 million and over 400 employees. The average price of one of his timepieces;  $38,000.
A big billboard next to the country manor showing some of the watch brands Franck Muller owns.  To tell you the truth, after learning about the astronomical prices of property in the area I'm more impressed with Muller's business acumen in snapping up this estate back in 1994.
After leaving Watchland I'm just cycling around having a fun time and stumble upon this place.  Richemont, with over $11 billion in revenues, is the world's second largest luxury goods company (after LVMH). Cartier, Dunhill, Montblanc, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Alfred Dunhill and IWC are just some of the company's brands they own. I visited their head office twice--once in 1996 when they were headquartered in Zug, Switzerland and in 2003 when they were headquartered in downtown Geneva--both times I received an excellent reception. I had visited watchmaker Baume & Mercier years ago when their offices were near downtown Geneva.

Is this Richemont's new head office? It's Sunday and the only one around is the security guard who I converse via an intercom at a tall metal gate. He tells me nothing--probably because he knows nothing. *When arriving home I Google "Richemont" I find out this IS the new head office but, there's so much forest around I can't see how many buildings are here. Thanks to Google satellite map it looks like a campus-like setting with four buildings.
Switzerland is known for not being flashy so this big gaudy sign next to the highway from Geneva to Lausanne is out of the norm.  FIBA stands for Federation International Basketball Association.
The 60,000 square foot FIBA building was built in 2013 at a cost of $35 million. Pricey digs for an association of 215 members.
Only a few doors down from FIBA another association is building fancy new offices---FIM; Federation International Motorcycles.
 This privaterly-owned chateau in Coppet is closed today but, thought I'd snap a photo.
 Chateau de Coppet inside the gate.
I'm near Nyon, about 15 miles from Geneva. You can't see much in this photo as the structure fronts the lakefront. I'm not sure how many levels it has but, remember I told you lakefront property is very expensive? Well, guess who has their snazzy offices here. Ever heard of UEFA? It's the Union of European Football Association. UEFA is the governing body for soccer in Europe. Only 54 members belong to the union however, revenues for UEFA totaled $1.7 billion in 2014.
 This building is also part of UEFA and sits right across the road from the lakefront site.
 Nyon, population 20,000, front Lake Geneva. See the white castle up on the hill?
 Closer view of Nyon's castle.
 Front entrance to Nyon's castle.
Water fountain with mural on the wall in Nyon's old town area.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Nespresso, Castles and Sherlock Holmes in Switzerland

Today my bike and I hopped on a train and in 30 minutes were dropped off in Romont (population 5,100) to begin the 40 mile ride back to Lausanne. The medieval old town part of Romont sits up on the hill and is still protected by fortifications.
 Romont's medieval castle in the old town is used for administrative offices and meetings.
 Entrance into the castle.
 Courtyard of castle.
 The view from the castle out to the farmland.
Last week this brand new Nespresso plant was in the news. Located on the edge of Romont and costing more than $300 million to build I wanted to see it for myself. Nespresso is part of Nestle, the world's largest food company. Walking into the reception area there's a big plaque commemorating the building's dedication 10 days ago.
The Nespresso facility is massive--something like four football fields could fit in the complex. What do they manufacture here? Believe it or not, only one thing--capsules. More specifically the ones for the new large cup Vertuo line for their espresso machines which are only used in the USA and Canada.
Making my way down a switchback road leading to Lucens, population 3,900, I can easily spot Lucens Castle towering over the town.
I've cycled past the castle on many occasions and always get frustrated by the fact it's privately-owned and not open to visitors.
Something strange is going on in the town center as I spot lots of posters bearing the name Sherlock Holmes along with directional arrows. Hmm, I cycle up the road leading to the castle.
At the castle entrance I'm surprised to see people. They don't speak English and my French is minimal but, the castle is open today for some kind of fundraiser so I gladly pay the fee and enter.
Lots of people inside and I find someone to give me the lowdown. The castle dates back to the 1300's and has had a long line of owners and uses. Remember Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the writer of Sherlock Holmes? He ended up an immensely wealthy man and one of his sons, Adrian Conan Doyle (1910-1970) took some of that inherited wealth and bought this castle. In the cellar of the castle Adrian Conan Doyle opened a Sherlock Holmes museum. When Adrian died in 1970 (he's buried on the castle grounds) the new owner continued the museum but, when it was sold again in 1991 the new owner nixed the museum and the public was banished from the castle.
 One of the rooms filled with tapestries.
 View from dungeon window.
 View of castle entrance from high above. You can barely see my bike parked outside
 One of the smaller dining rooms.
This cellar used to house the Sherlock Holmes museum. Today the 1939 movie "The Hound of the Baskervilles" -with Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes is being shown for visitors.
The stairway leads to other buildings on the grounds including a chapel.
This building, though off-limits, gives me an explanation as to why the sudden openness by the castle's owner. In the 1920's the castle was home to a girl's boarding school. Checking out the castle's website:  I learn the castle can now be rented out for various events such as corporate retreats--along with its 21 comfortable rooms completely renovated in 2014. Check out the website to see the rooms.

This London black cab was transporting visitors from the city center to the castle.
Down the hill from the castle on the first floor in a poorly marked building is the new home for the Sherlock Holmes museum.
Outside of the building housing the Sherlock Holmes museum.
Cycling a few miles from Lucens and I'm in Moudon, population 5,500. Up toward the hill lies the old town.
This castle in Moudon's old town dates back to the 1500's and like most places in Switzerland the clock shows the correct time.
This fountain next to the castle has been spewing out refreshing cold drinking water since 1589.
Another fountain in Moudon's town center.
View up to Moudon's old town area along the river.
This busy road has a nice wide sidewalk reserved for pedestrians, cyclists and tractors. Two minutes earlier I was merrily cycling along the road when a sports utility vehicle comes speeding towards me in the PEDESTRIAN/BICYCLE/TRACTOR lane. I was able to get out of the way and watched the driver (an old man looking confused) pass by me.