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Published: Thursday December 19, 2013 MYT 6:30:00 PM
Updated: Thursday December 19, 2013 MYT 7:18:20 PM

Refurbished Olympic Museum in Lausanne set to reopen

This is the place to be for those wishing to understand the secrets of sporting success.

FANCY measuring up against the mighty Usain Bolt, or hitting the track with your heart beating like a champion’s? The Olympic Museum helps visitors unlock the secrets of sporting success.

The museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, the hub of the Olympic movement, has been metamorphosed during a two-year shutdown and is due to reopen to the public this Saturday (Dec 21).

Lying on the shores of Lake Geneva, it is the mother ship of 25 Olympic museums scattered around the globe.

The 55 million Swiss franc (RM203mil) renovation has gone beyond the purely physical and technological, thoroughly rethinking the way the museum traces the history of Olympianism.

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY STEPHANIE PERTUISETThe trainers of US sprinter Michael Johnson are displayed at the Olympic Museum after its renovation in Lausanne, western Switzerland, on December 10, 2013. After 20 months of transformations, the Olympic Museum will be reopening to the public on December 21. With its new exhibition areas, it will encourage visitors to delve into the history, legacy, dreams, challenges and values which have combined to make the Olympic Movement what it is today. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI
The trainers of US sprinter Michael Johnson are displayed at the Olympic Museum after its renovation in Lausanne, western Switzerland. – AFP

In a radical change from the previous chronological time-line, visitors will now be treated to thematic exhibits, starting with the ancient Greek Temple of Zeus in Olympus.

“We’re the museum of an idea, a culture and a philosophy called Olympianism. That doesn’t stop at pure competition or physical activity. It goes beyond sport,” underlined the museum’s director Francis Gabet.

Displayed like icons in the museum are master-copies of all the medals of the modern Olympics, starting with the first edition in Athens in 1896, as well as every Olympic torch, first used in Berlin in 1936 in a return to the games’ ancient religious roots.

The 1936 Olympics are best known for the quartet of gold medals won by black American athlete Jessie Owens, whose powerful performances raised the hackles of Nazi Germany’s dictator Adolf Hitler.

One of Owens’ golds was sold recently at auction for almost US$1.5mil (RM5mil), and the museum dreamed of being able to put such a powerful sporting symbol on display.

“The question arose as to whether we should join the bidding race. But for us, a medal is priceless and there’s a risk of encouraging commercialism,” said Gabet.

A host of objects on exhibition in the museum is indelibly associated with gold.

They include the Carmen-style dress of German figure skater Katarina Witt, the retro-style skis of Frenchman Jean-Claude Killy, the outfit of Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura, and the fencing foil and kit of Germany’s Thomas Bach, the new head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY STEPHANIE PERTUISETNew International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach of Germany (L) and outgoing IOC president Jacques Rogge of Belgium (R) pose with the outfits they wore as Olympic competitors during a tour of the Olympic Museum after its renovation in Lausanne, western Switzerland, on December 10, 2013. After 20 months of transformations, the Olympic Museum will be reopening to the public on December 21. With its new exhibition areas, it will encourage visitors to delve into the history, legacy, dreams, challenges and values which have combined to make the Olympic Movement what it is today. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI
New IOC president Thomas Bach of Germany (left) and his predecessor Jacques Rogge of Belgium posing with the outfits they wore as Olympic competitors during a tour of the Olympic Museum on Dec 10, 2013. – AFP

‘Understand what lies behind the glitz’

The museum does not seek to be a Hall of Fame of Olympians, however.

“We don’t set out to deny the existence of stars, but our aim is to help understand what lies behind the glitz,” said Gabet.

epa03985484 A visitor walks through the newly renovated Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, 10 December 2013. After 20 months of transformations, the Olympic Museum will be reopening to the public on 21 December 2013 with new exhibitions and digital content.  EPA/VALENTIN FLAURAUD
A visitor walks through the newly renovated Olympic Museum, which features new exhibitions and digital content. – EPA

In the museum’s grounds, a 100m corridor enables visitors to appreciate the speed of Bolt, the world’s fastest man, with speeding shafts of light replicating his 9.58-second world record.

Thanks to interactive displays, it is easy to imagine oneself as a champion parading at the Olympic Games opening ceremony, living in the Olympic Village and then emotionally entering the stadium.

“Time just isn’t the same when you’re in competition. For some, it slows down and for others, it speeds up. That’s what athletes call ‘getting into the zone’, a mental state of hyper-concentration just before the starting pistol,” Gabet explained.

Leaving the museum, visitors have a chance to reflect on the true words of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the French founding father of the modern Olympics, whose statue stands proudly in front of the building.

A statue of Pierre de Coubertin stands outside the Olympic Museum after its renovation in Lausanne, western Switzerland, on December 10, 2013. After 20 months of transformations, the Olympic Museum will be reopening to the public on December 21. With its new exhibition areas, it will encourage visitors to delve into the history, legacy, dreams, challenges and values which have combined to make the Olympic Movement what it is today. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI
The Pierre de Coubertin statue outside the museum. – AFP

“The important thing in life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well,” he once said. – AFP Relaxnews

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, Olympic Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland, reopen, sports

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