Refurbished Olympic Museum probes the secrets of sport

Refurbished Olympic Museum probes the secrets of sport
The Olympic Museum is seen after its renovation in Lausanne, western Switzerland, on December 10, 2013.

LAUSANNE - 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, the hub of the Olympic movement, has been metamorphosed during a two-year shutdown and is due to reopen to the public on December 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 (S$77 million) renovation has gone beyond the purely physical and technological, thoroughly rethinking the way the museum traces the history of Olympianism.

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$1.5 million (S$1.88 million), 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.

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