LAUSANNE, Switzerland, January 19, 2014 – When Pierre de Fredy, Baron de Coubertin revived the Olympic Games in 1896, his dream was an idealistic concept to unite the countries of the world through athletic competition. The father of the modern Olympic movement and founder of the International Olympic Committee conceived the idea of reviving the Olympic ideal in 1889; seven years later the first modern games were held in Athens, Greece.
In February, 2014, the world will once again gather for two and a half weeks in Sochi, Russia for the five-ring circus of competitions known as the Winter Olympics. But for those who are unable travel to the games, the re-opening of the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland provides a year-round venue to celebrate the history, art and athleticism that Coubertin so admired.
For Pierre de Coubertin, the Olympic movement was significantly larger than pure competition. As he frequently said during his efforts to revive the ancient games, “The important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well.”
In the 100-plus years that have transpired since Coubertin’s first games in Greece, controversy has probably been more in evidence than the athletic ideals espoused by their founder, but the spirit of the baron’s concept never wanes at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne.
Situated on a terraced esplanade overlooking Lake Geneva, the white Greek marble building glistens in the sun as its gardens and sculptures reach toward the shores of the lake. The Olympic Museum is a museum for people who don’t like museums. It is a rare combination of history, art, athletics and global cultural exchange that can be found nowhere else in the world.
The sculpture park leading down to the lake contains numerous pieces centering around a theme of athletics and competition. When combined with the art however, the museum features thousands of historical objects including Olympic torches from all of the games, equipment, medals and interactive displays where visitors can access virtually any event that has ever been recorded.
The baron’s advocacy for the Olympics evolved from several ideals he believed about athletic competition. To de Courbetin, the ancient games, which were held every four years in Olympia, Greece, encouraged the spirit of competition among amateur athletes while setting aside the rivalries of war by promoting peace through cultural interchange. The precise longevity of the original games is not known. They began in 776 B.C. and continued until either 261 or 393 A.D.
Other attempts to revive the Olympic movement were made prior to Baron de Courbetin’s success, the most notable of which happened in London in 1866 when Dr. William Penny Brookes held a series of contests at the CrystalPalace. Though Brookes’ concept of an international track meet did not materialize, his games were the first time that “Olympic-style” competitions on an national scale had ever been held outside of Greece.
In a city layered with museums, the Olympic Museum in Lausanne is by far the brightest star attracting more than a quarter of a million visitors each year. Its purpose is to perpetuate the philosophies about which Baron de Coubertin was so deeply passionate. Perhaps the official message of the museum states it best, “The Olympics is much more than a mere sporting competition. It is a philosophy of life that is rooted in the depths of time. sport, art and culture are the traditional pillars of the Olympics.”
While sports may be the initial attraction of the Olympic Museum, the venue never lets travelers forget that art and culture must be included in the blend in order to fulfill the purpose of the movement. As Courbetin put it, “Olympism is a state of mind.”
The Olympic Museum re-opened in Lausanne in December 2013. Tickets for adults are about $20. Senior tickets are approximately $18, while children 6 to 16 are $12. Children under six are free. Hours from October 15 to April 30 are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily; from May 1 to October 14 they are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Travelers with a SwissRailPass are entitled to free admission.
The Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland is a museum of the ages for all ages. Let the games begin.
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor wss an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com). His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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