Getting into the Olympic Spirit in Lausanne

The Olympic Museum, Le Musée Olympique, Lausanne, Switzerland

Just before the start of the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeong-Chang, I thought it would be fun to visit the Olympic Museum in Lausanne.  I’d seen that they had various Korean bits and pieces which I thought could be a good reason for visiting, besides which I’m a fan of the Olympics and had wanted to go to the museum at some point anyway.

The museum is on a beautiful patch of land, whose gardens slope down towards Lake Geneva.  The building itself, which is from 1993, is a modern, airy and moderately attractive structure which fits in with the greenery and landscaping around it.  There were a fair amount of joggers going through the grounds, which was both disconcerting and kind of cute.  It’s nice that the grounds are open to the public and that they are used and enjoyed by the locals.

The back entrance to the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

The back entrance to the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

We ended up by going into the museum through the back entrance: which meant that we ran along the track lines which led to the doors.  We ran 100m in 8.1 seconds.  We’re that awesome, Sister Chickpea and I, me with my stubby legs and her with her bad back.

Running through the grounds of the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Running through the grounds of the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Olympic Totem, Jim Hart, 2009, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Olympic Totem, Jim Hart, 2009, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

If you do go in through the same entrance as us, be aware that you need to get your tickets from the ground floor – just pop in the lift and all will be well.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been based in Lausanne since 1915, but it took seven years for the authorities to designate a building for them to use as their headquarters.  Finally, two floors of the city-owned Villa Mon-Repos was given over for IOC administration, the office of the IOC’s President, Baron de Coubertin, and a small museum.  Subsequently there was bickering between the IOC – who had since moved to a villa in nearby Vidy – and the local authorities about the future of the Olympic museum, which was getting too big for Mon-Repos.  Finally the new museum opened in 1993 in Ouchy, with renovations being completed in 2013 to give it its current layout.

There are three sections to the museum, each on its own floor.  The first looks at the history of the games; the second has objects belonging to Olympians; and the third fosters the idea of being in the Olympic Village.

The Olympic World

The history of the modern Olympic Games starts with the history of the ancient Games.  These started out as a way of celebrating the cult of the god Zeus in Olympia, but over time Greek citizens from anywhere in the Greek world could go and compete for the glory of winning an olive-wreath crown and prestige for their home-town.  Like the modern version, the games were held every four years.

Going for a Greek theme in the Ancient Gallery in the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Going for a Greek theme in the Ancient Gallery in the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

What is interesting is the fact that the games were seen as so important that there would be a truce called among the city-states (who frequently indulged in going to war against each other) so that everyone could participate in safety.  This was largely observed, and the ability to ban and heavily fine those who didn’t observe the truce was evidently genuinely an incentive to stay peaceful.  It’s interesting that Sparta, who were the bad-boys of the Greek world, appealed against their ban to attend the games when they were accused of attacking another city during the period of the truce.  The fact that they just moaned about it and didn’t swaddle themselves up in armour and invade Olympia kinda shows how much the event was respected.

Rather like in modern times, the games took on a political edge, with the city-states trying to get one over on the others.  The prestige of the games and the glory associated with the winners was so great that it wasn’t unknown for participants to switch allegiances for money: yes, I’m talking about you, Sotades.  He was a Cretan, who competed for his city in one games, but then switched to represent Ephesus for the next set of games – because they paid him to.

Celebrating the Greek love of sport in the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Celebrating the Greek love of sport in the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

The games eventually consisted of 23 different sports, including long distance running, wrestling, boxing and horse racing.  We mainly know about the sports through the lovely drawings of them on pottery, and there’s a neat selection of them in the gallery.

Speed Race, Pseudo-Panathenaic amphora, c540BC, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Speed Race, Pseudo-Panathenaic amphora, c540BC, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Pot showing the long jump, c400BC, the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Pot showing the long jump, c400BC, the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Ancient discus, bronze, weighing 2.49kg in the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Ancient discus, bronze, weighing 2.49kg in the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Oil lamp showing the Pankration, 1st century AD, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Oil lamp showing the Pankration, 1st century AD, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real discus before, so that was cool.  I was also really taken with the little oil bottle, aryballos, which the athlete would use to pour oil on his body before scraping it off with a strigil, the strange metal L-shaped object that strikes me as being painful to use.  The fellow on the vase below is holding a strigil in his left hand, while the lady behind him is holding his aryballos.

Crowning of an athlete, attributed to the Amylos Painter, c420BC, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Crowning of an athlete, attributed to the Amylos Painter, c420BC, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Aryballos and strigil, 1st century BC/AD, bronze, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Aryballos and strigil, 1st century BC/AD, bronze, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Having established the origins of the Olympics we then look at Pierre de Coubertin.  He was an interesting man, keen on history and education.  He’d read Tom Brown’s School Days and went to visit Rugby School in 1883, along with other English educational establishments.  He particularly admired Thomas Arnold of Rugby for developing physical education and thought that sport could “create moral and social strength” and provided the sort of training young men needed to go off and be the types that brought the British success in the 19th century.

Coubertin decided that French schools needed to institute some similar plan, for the betterment of the individual, but also to create men who wouldn’t let France lose a war as badly as they’d lost the Franco-Prussian War.  Sadly, Coubertin didn’t succeed in getting more PE in schools, and we all know what happened in the two world wars.  He, at least, would probably have seen a link here.

Pierre de Coubertin's boxing gloves, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Pierre de Coubertin’s boxing gloves, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Pierre de Coubertin's fencing foil and outfit, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Pierre de Coubertin’s fencing foil and outfit, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Equestrian fencing portrait of Pierre de Coubertin, Jacques de Lalaing, 1914, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  Coubertin wrote a "Treaty on Equestrian Fencing" in 1906 in which he tried to sell the idea of fencing on horseback.  It's a great wonder that he failed.

Equestrian fencing portrait of Pierre de Coubertin, Jacques de Lalaing, 1914, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  Coubertin wrote a “Treaty on Equestrian Fencing” in 1906 in which he tried to sell the idea of fencing on horseback.  It’s a great wonder that he failed.

Pierre de Coubertin's desk, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Pierre de Coubertin’s desk, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

While Coubertin is credited with starting the modern Olympic movement, people had been trying to do something similar throughout the 19th century.  In fact, there were local, national Olympics held in Europe, but what Coubertin wanted to do was make these competitions international.  In 1894, after five years of planning, there was a meeting in Paris.  It was decided that there would be an international Olympic Games held in Athens in 1896.  The organisation of this event was seen to by the Greek authorities and the 1st President of the International Olympic Committee, Demetrius Vikelas.

The Olympics didn’t meet with immediate success.  It took a few competitions for it to build up momentum and to gain the prestige of being the ultimate sporting event for amateur athletes around the world.  It’s generally acknowledged that the Stockholm 1912 Games were a breakthrough for the Olympic movement, not only because it was the first time, since the first one in Athens, that was held as its own, stand-alone tournament – previously it was staged along with World Fairs – but because it was the first time that contestants came from five continents.

The competition, which Coubertin hoped would bring peace and better understanding between peoples of different countries, was suspended by war.  The IOC headquarters were based in Paris, and to make sure that they didn’t get moved to Berlin, Coubertin looked to neutral Switzerland as a place to move to.  In 1915, he moved the IOC to Lausanne.

First Olympic Flag, 1914, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The flag was designed for the 20th anniversary of the Olympics, but due to the First World War, it wasn't used officially until the 1920 Antwerp games.

First Olympic Flag, 1914, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The flag was designed for the 20th anniversary of the Olympics, but due to the First World War, it wasn’t used officially until the 1920 Antwerp games.

Invitation sent to Coubertin to attend the Olympic Games in Antwerp in 1920, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Invitation sent to Coubertin to attend the Olympic Games in Antwerp in 1920, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Once the importance of Coubertin is established, the gallery moves on to various objects relevant to the games.  There were some trophies which were attractive, particularly the one donated by Tsar Nicholas II, which has a fantastically dynamic power with the figures on the boat.

Olympic decathlon trophy, donated by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Olympic decathlon trophy, donated by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Olympic Cup, Charles Massin, design Pierre de Coubertin, 1905, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The cup is awarded to an institution or association or region for services to sport or for helping spread the Olympic ideal.

Olympic Cup, Charles Massin, design Pierre de Coubertin, 1905, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The cup is awarded to an institution or association or region for services to sport or for helping spread the Olympic ideal.

Moving along we came to the section about the Olympic torches, which starts with the one from 1936 and progresses through all the weird, wonderful and stupid shapes that have been designed over the years.  What I thought was particularly strange was the way I actually recognised so many of them – the designs do seep into your subconscious.

The Olympic flame is captured in the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

The Olympic flame is captured in the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Then a torch is carried in the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Then a torch is carried in the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Safety torch, Moscow, 1980, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  Used to transport the flame to different competition venues.

Safety torch, Moscow, 1980, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  Used to transport the flame to different competition venues.

But what really seeps into your subconscious is the merchandising.  Ah!  The mascots!  Don’t they all look delightfully crazy in their cage?  I mean display-case.

The mascots of Olympics past, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

The mascots of Olympics past, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

One of my favourite mascots is Sam the Eagle.  When I was a toddler, I was randomly but kindly given a little figurine of Sam by a guy on a bus, so he was always a special toy for me.  Now I look at him with the eyes of an adult, he looks utterly mad.

Sam the Eagle, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Sam the Eagle, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

The design and visual impact of the games is also incredibly important for building memories.  There was a sketch for the Los Angeles games, which was really interesting to see, and made me wish there were more examples from other games of the thought processes behind the marketing and publicity for each competition.

Designs for venues of the 1984 Los Angeles Games, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Designs for venues of the 1984 Los Angeles Games, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

But now we go back to the merchandising… I love it!

Mascot, Japan, 1972, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  There was no official mascot of the Sapporo Games, but a little bear with the Japanese flag on his chest appeared on some merchandise. This fellow is a money box and declares: "Let's make success".

Mascot, Japan, 1972, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  There was no official mascot of the Sapporo Games, but a little bear with the Japanese flag on his chest appeared on some merchandise. This fellow is a money box and declares: “Let’s make success”.

Mr and Mrs Hodori, from the Seoul 1988 Games, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  It was Mr Hodori who appeared on the promotional material as the mascot of the games, but evidently merchandisers wanted us to know he had a private life.

Mr and Mrs Hodori, from the Seoul 1988 Games, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  It was Mr Hodori who appeared on the promotional material as the mascot of the games, but evidently merchandisers wanted us to know he had a private life.

One of the most informative parts of the display was about the 1928 Amsterdam Games – the first to be called the Summer Games, with the introduction of the Winter Games in 1924.  Not only did Amsterdam establish many traditions in the way the Olympics are run (and they were the first to have Coca-Cola advertising), these were also the Olympics that upped their merchandising game.  Olympic related goods flooded the market and symbols, such as the Olympic rings, began to appear on merchandise.

Plate from the 1928 Amsterdam Games, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  I love the way it looks so traditionally Dutch.  They've even managed to fit windmills in the scenes at 12 and 6 o'clock.

Plate from the 1928 Amsterdam Games, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  I love the way it looks so traditionally Dutch.  They’ve even managed to fit windmills in the scenes at 12 and 6 o’clock.

Advertising the 1928 Amsterdam Games, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Advertising the 1928 Amsterdam Games, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

One fascinating object on show was a kimono from the cancelled 1940 Summer Games in  Tokyo.  Tokyo would have been the first non-Western city to host the Olympics, and the planning was fully underway, with posters and advertising material distributed internationally and construction work starting on buildings.  With the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, Japan were not the most popular kids on the block, and they forfeited the games a year later.  The IOC gave the 1940 Olympics to Helsinki instead.  Well, the war saw to it that those games never happened, either.  Most jinxed games ever.

Promotional kimono for the cancelled 1940 Tokyo Games, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Promotional kimono for the cancelled 1940 Tokyo Games, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Chair from the 1968 Mexico City Games, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The Organising Committee for the Games in Mexico City chose this model of chair, created by British designer Robin Day, for its venues. Millions of these stacking chairs have been sold since 1963.

Chair from the 1968 Mexico City Games, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The Organising Committee for the Games in Mexico City chose this model of chair, created by British designer Robin Day, for its venues. Millions of these stacking chairs have been sold since 1963.

Waldi, the mascot of the 1972 Munich Games, designed by Oti Aicher, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The theme of these games was a six-colour palette, with each colour apparently a symbol of peace and freedom.

Waldi, the mascot of the 1972 Munich Games, designed by Oti Aicher, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The theme of these games was a six-colour palette, with each colour apparently a symbol of peace and freedom.

Looking back at the gallery with mascots and merchandising in the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Looking back at the gallery with mascots and merchandising in the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

It was also nice to see some costumes used during the opening ceremonies.  Again, it would have been interesting to see more of them, because there have been some really beautiful and really weird outfits over the years…  as we were reminded during some of the footage being shown on the screens.  Not that I could watch much of it for fear of having an epileptic fit.

A little about the Opening Ceremonies of Olympics past, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

A little about the Opening Ceremonies of Olympics past, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Standard Bearer's costume, JoAnn Tan for Moschino, Turin 2006, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The light-up skirt has representations of the city of Turin.

Standard Bearer’s costume, JoAnn Tan for Moschino, Turin 2006, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The light-up skirt has representations of the city of Turin.

Standard Bearer's costume, JoAnn Tan for Moschino, Turin 2006, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  Here we have the Turin landmark, the Mole.

Standard Bearer’s costume, JoAnn Tan for Moschino, Turin 2006, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  Here we have the Turin landmark, the Mole.

Standard Bearer's costume, JoAnn Tan for Moschino, Turin 2006, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  Whoops!  Someone has fallen over!

Standard Bearer’s costume, JoAnn Tan for Moschino, Turin 2006, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  Whoops!  Someone has fallen over!

Standard Bearer's costume, JoAnn Tan for Moschino, Turin 2006, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  Skiing down the mountain...

Standard Bearer’s costume, JoAnn Tan for Moschino, Turin 2006, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  Skiing down the mountain…

White vetter's costume, Lillehammer 1994, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  Vetters are characters from Norwegian folklore. Good vetters, dressed in white, performed a 'liberation' dance, while extracts from the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights were read out.

White vetter’s costume, Lillehammer 1994, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  Vetters are characters from Norwegian folklore. Good vetters, dressed in white, performed a ‘liberation’ dance, while extracts from the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights were read out.

Traditional costumes worn in Sochi 2014, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Traditional costumes worn in Sochi 2014, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

I wish I could wear a Russian dress…

The Olympic Games

The next floor of the museum looks at individual Olympians and has a range of items worn and used by those who have competed at the Summer and Winter Games.  The museum’s website says that in this section “stories come alive through the presentation of equipment and photo and video documents”.  Honestly, the stories didn’t really come alive to me – but it was interesting highlighting individuals and their achievements.  And seeing how big Rafa Nadal’s feet are.

A cornucopia of costume, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

A cornucopia of costume, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Perhaps I should have mentioned at the beginning that I’m not a massive sports fan – I love watching the Olympics and there are a few sports that I dip in and out of, but on the whole I’d say I’m pretty ignorant.  Nevertheless, I found enough people I recognised to make it interesting for me, along with a few objects which did tell intriguing histories I was glad to learn about.

 

Ice skates belonging to Sonja Henie, 3 time Olympic champion, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  She was the first female skater to integrate choreography into her performances, and she introduced the short skirt and white skates.  Then she went to Hollywood and starred in some not too good films.

Ice skates belonging to Sonja Henie, 3 time Olympic champion, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  She was the first female skater to integrate choreography into her performances, and she introduced the short skirt and white skates.  Then she went to Hollywood and starred in some not too good films.

Two man bobsleigh of the Swiss Team, 1920s, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Two man bobsleigh of the Swiss Team, 1920s, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Costume of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, Sarajevo 1984,  Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  They were designed by Courtney Jones, a previous world champion, and skating costume designer, Bobby Thompson, himself an ex-skater and trainer.

Costume of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, Sarajevo 1984,  Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  They were designed by Courtney Jones, a previous world champion, and skating costume designer, Bobby Thompson, himself an ex-skater and trainer.

Swimming cap and goggles of Chad Le Clos, gold medalist of 200m butterfly, London 2012,  Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Swimming cap and goggles of Chad Le Clos, gold medalist of 200m butterfly, London 2012,  Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Tennis Racket of Roger Federer, Miami Masters, 2008, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Tennis Racket of Roger Federer, Miami Masters, 2008, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Shoes belonging to Rafael Nadal, gold medalist, Beijing 2008, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Shoes belonging to Rafael Nadal, gold medalist, Beijing 2008, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Shoes belonging to Michael Johnson, gold medalist in the 200m and 400m race, Atlanta 1996, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Shoes belonging to Michael Johnson, gold medalist in the 200m and 400m race, Atlanta 1996, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Shoes belonging to Nawal El Moutawakel, 400m hurdles, Los Angeles, 1984, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  She was the first Arab, African and Muslim woman to win a gold medal.

Shoes belonging to Nawal El Moutawakel, 400m hurdles, Los Angeles, 1984, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  She was the first Arab, African and Muslim woman to win a gold medal.

Weightlifting shoes of Naim Suleymanoglu, Barcelona 1992, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The sole is made of wood and hardened leather.

Weightlifting shoes of Naim Suleymanoglu, Barcelona 1992, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The sole is made of wood and hardened leather.

Shoes of Jesse Owens, four time champion, Berlin 1936, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The shoes were made by Adi Dassler, who created the Adidas brand in 1948.

Shoes of Jesse Owens, four time champion, Berlin 1936, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The shoes were made by Adi Dassler, who created the Adidas brand in 1948.

Shirt belonging to Edward Gourdin, long jump silver medallist, Paris 1924, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  He was the first man in history to jump 25 feet and the first African-American to win a silver medal in the long jump.  He was also the first African-American to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Massachusetts.

Shirt belonging to Edward Gourdin, long jump silver medallist, Paris 1924, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  He was the first man in history to jump 25 feet and the first African-American to win a silver medal in the long jump.  He was also the first African-American to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Massachusetts.

Uniform belonging to Karl August Casparsson, identical to the one worn by his son, Ernst, a member of the Swedish equestrian eventing team and champion in Stockholm 1912, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The event was only open to the military, so Casparsson wore the uniform of the Smaland Hussars.

Uniform belonging to Karl August Casparsson, identical to the one worn by his son, Ernst, a member of the Swedish equestrian eventing team and champion in Stockholm 1912, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The event was only open to the military, so Casparsson wore the uniform of the Smaland Hussars.

Staub tennis racket, Charlotte Cooper, the first female gold medallist, Paris 1900, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Staub tennis racket, Charlotte Cooper, the first female gold medallist, Paris 1900, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Cycling shirt signed by Frenchman Roger Beaufrand, 1km pursuit Olympic champion, Amsterdam 1928, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The rings are not in the correct order, because they hadn't been fixed yet!

Cycling shirt signed by Frenchman Roger Beaufrand, 1km pursuit Olympic champion, Amsterdam 1928, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  The rings are not in the correct order, because they hadn’t been fixed yet!

The Olympic Spirit

The final section of the museum takes us, apparently, to the heart of the Olympic Village.  I hope this is not true, because it seemed like a pretty grim and barren place.

The subjects of nutrition, training and relaxation are looked at, and it was fun seeing the kind of meals different types of athletes eat.  It could have been more informative, but to be honest, the same can be said for much of what’s in the museum.

Truce Wall, London 2012, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Truce Wall, London 2012, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Menu for the athletes in Russia, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  I'm sure the food was just scrummy and didn't feature cabbage once.  The bear is Misha, by the way, the mascot of Moscow 1980.

Menu for the athletes in Russia, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland.  I’m sure the food was just scrummy and didn’t feature cabbage once.  The bear is Misha, by the way, the mascot of Moscow 1980.

Some ugly outfits in a room clearly designed for school-groups, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Some ugly outfits in a room clearly designed for school-groups, Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

In a section which will appeal to children, and big-children, like me, there are interactive games towards the end of the display.  There was a balancing game, where you had to make a ball go into the centre through a bit of an obstacle course.  The one I went on was clearly not working, because it refused to acknowledge that I did it successfully.  Then I had a go at a running/shooting event, which also was clearly broken, because it wouldn’t acknowledge my excellent shooting.

Getting a chance to be athletes in the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

Getting a chance to be athletes in the Olympics Museum, Lausanne, Switzerland

So In Summary

While we were walking around the museum, I felt really quite caught up in the Olympic spirit.  How nice it is to have an event that unites people from all around the world and to see personal objects belonging to sportsmen and women of the past century.  It was a well-designed museum, lacking in detail and consistent levels of information about each of the games, but it had enough to engage anyone who is mildly interested in the Olympics.

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

Then, after I left the the bubble of happiness, and was discussing the museum with Sister Chickpea, I felt a bit like I’d been exposed to propaganda.

I realised that there had been an epic white-washing of history.  I understand that the museum wanted to keep with the ‘pure’ Olympic spirit and therefore avoid ‘controversial’ subjects, but to have colourful, joyful promotional items from the Munich Games, for example, without mentioning the terrorism, is like talking about the beauty of the Titanic without mentioning that it sank.  The truth is, as much as we all respect the ideals of the Olympics, there are lots of miserable people who have exploited the games for their own cause: I’m thinking 1936 in Berlin, drug cheats, various Russian scandals, dodgy refereeing decisions, boycotts, suspensions and racism.  Of course you don’t expect there to be a room dedicated to these things, but an acknowledgement that all is not sweetness and light would be more honest, because the truth is that the games are high-profile events which will always be open to being hijacked by some kind of controversy.

We all want to see the positive and good in the world – but to pretend awkward truths don’t exist, or to refer to it like it’s a minor irritation, comes across as naive.  Yes the fight against doping is mentioned, and yes, there is the odd mention of African-Americans facing racism, but the complexity of people and international relations and politics is integral to any event that features people, international relations and politics.  To imply that the Olympic games, by their very existence, instil noble ideals in the minds of competitors is sadly untrue.  Just look at the number of cases where athletes have been sent home for doing and saying a myriad of stupid things.

But then let’s consider this: the families of those killed during the 1972 Munich Olympics requested that there be a minute’s silence in their memory in the 1976 Montreal games.  Considering the shocking and traumatic nature of the attack, this would seem to be a natural request – a respectful tribute to the athletes who were, after all, murdered by terrorists.  But it was rejected, because it was feared that Muslim delegations would leave if the Israeli victims were mentioned.

This was the IOC’s consistent stand through the following games.  The families pushed again for the minute’s silence to mark the 40th anniversary of the attacks at the 2012 London games, but this was rejected in a vote.  This is the Olympic spirit in action.  If the IOC members themselves can’t put aside religious, racial and political differences, it’s a bit rich to expect individual athletes to do it.

I should add that I saw no reference to the terrorism of the 1972 games in the Olympics Museum.  Of course, I could have missed it – there were interactive displays which I can’t ever be bothered with – but any references to anything negative would have been slipped in, not addressed head on, in any narrative.

Maybe I’ve over-thought this and have over-reacted, but as I’ve read more about the Olympics, I’ve become more annoyed.  I can’t help but get cross when museums cherry-pick the bits of history they find acceptable.  History is history, events run into each other and explain each other.  That is what we learn from – we learn from the failures of the past, not from the idealism of the present.

Further Information

The Olympic Museum holds exhibitions that relate to the games that are being held at the time:  www.olympic.org.  While the website is helpful with the practical information regarding a visit, it’s not so hot on giving away much about their collections.

There’s also a good gift shop where they’ve made old merchandise available to buy again!  It was all out of my budget range, but it was nice for those who can buy!

How To Get There

The Olympics Museum is situated by Lake Geneva, in the Lausanne suburb of Ouchy.  It’s an easy underground ride from the Lausanne train station to Ouchy, and from there, walk towards the lake, and follow the road left.  You will soon get to the gardens of the museum, with packs of teenagers hanging around.  Walk up through the gardens and you get to the main entrance.

Lausanne has a very helpful site in English: www.t-l.ch

For general transport links from other places in Switzerland, checkout: www.sbb.ch

 

 

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

No Comments

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: