POSTED: January 24th 2014

The new Olympic Museum pulling in visitors

The Olympic Museum reopened in December / IOC
The Olympic Museum reopened in December / IOC

JOHN GOODBODY in LAUSANNE / Sports Features Communications 

(SFC) The Olympic Museum, which has been splendidly extended and renovated, attracted 45,000 visitors in the first month since it reopened on December 23. This compares with a total of 180,000 in an average year and is a clear indication how popular the Museum will prove in the months and years to come.

 Even before the extensive changes, it was the most visited museum in Switzerland and its complete make-over should ensure that  this status is enhanced because it can interest everyone from children to Olympic historians.

Francois Gabet, the Director of the Museum, said this week:”Planning began six years ago and now a lot of dreams have come true. We want a world-class destination. The Museum has a story that never ends. We must be very flexible as a museum and interest kids from 5 years-old upwards and also the specialists.

“We must talk to all of them. It has been part of the challenge to provide different levels of information. Marketing people like to be aiming at a precise target but our mission is that the Museum is for everyone.”

What is particularly striking about the Museum is the use of different kinds of media, including interactive features, such as a simulator of a biathlon, while at the same time presenting old pictures, original books and historic items such as the first Olympic flag, which was made in 1914, and the fencing mask used by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the Modern Games.

Some of the films give the social context of the Olympic Games, with clips for instance of the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism in eastern Europe, which had such a dramatic effect on the Olympic Movement partly because so many new countries were created with the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Nor has the Museum obscured controversies, such as drugs and the emancipation of black people and women. As Frederique Jamolli, another member of the Museum staff, says:”The Olympics are a mirror of society. We want to be positive but honest.”

The structure of the Museum has a natural flow. Beginning on the top floor, the visitor begins with  the Ancient Olympics and the founding of the Modern Games and then descends to the The Games themselves on the ground floor before descending to the the basement where there is the section devoted to the Spirit of the Games. As Gabet says:”We wanted to create a real journey. You discover something that you did not expect.”

Outside there are other features, including bars set at the height of the world record for the high jump and the pole vault and a 100 metre track. Visitors wanting to test their speed against Usain Bolt can start sprinting while at the same time lights on the side of the track flash to show how far behind they would be the double Olympic champion from Jamaica.

To mark the 22nd Winter Olympics in Sochi, the Olympic Museum is holding two special exhibitions.  First there is ‘The Russian Avant-Garde and Sport’, in which through the medium of photographs, the visitor is taken through the years where the communist ideal in the late 1920s and 1930 largely rejected competitive sport and instead concentrated on the physical development  of the masses. It was only in 1952 that the Soviet Union entered the Olympics.

The other exhibition is ‘Sochi Live’, which offers visitors an opportunity to explore how the visual identity of these Games was created, drawing inspiration from Russian arts and crafts.

Keywords · IOC · Olympic Museum · Olympic Games · Lausanne

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