HOPE provided through sports

March 24, 2011
Hope exhibit poster

Photo by Alden Jones

“This exhibitions aims to underline and demonstrate how what is captured on the screen of the individual memory becomes part of the collective memory; how spontaneous gestures have become a sigh of openess and a symbol of hope.”

This quote begins a journey through Olympic history and how sports provide hope for all people regardless of race, age or nationality.  The exhibition “Hope: How sport can change the world” is on display now through November 6, 2011, at the Olympic Museum at the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Olympic museum

The entrance to the IOC Olympic Museum as approached from the lakefront garden

As a visitor enters the first room on the left from the entrance to the museum, they begin a tour through the unifying elements of the Olympics in history.  First, there is a set of screens emphasizing moments of the Olympics which exemplify excellence, friendship and respect, such as a team of swimmers, who for 15 seconds following a win, are no longer each other’s competition in individual races but a team that has just won an Olympic race.

The exhibits in the HOPE series emphasize the struggle of minority groups to gain equal status through sports, such as aboriginal people, African Americans and LGBT peoples. 

Interactive displays throughout the exhibit allow visitors to hear the stories directly from the athletes who struggled through discrimination, such as Billy Mills, a member of the Lakota (Sioux) tribe of Native Americans and Billie Jean King, the lesbian tennis player who raised the national opinion on women’s tennis as a legitimate sport.

The first issue dealt with in the display is racial discrimination.  Athletes like Muhammed Ali (Cassius Clay) were strong advocates of the African American right to participate equally in Olympic sports. 

“Often depending on the local situation, such as in Alabama (where the size of the black community gave weight to the initiatives), these movements became part of a national emancipation push by the African American population,” a display said concerning the push to end racial discrimination in the Olympics.

Finally, gender discrimination is shown through interactive displays with information on the athletes that were groundbreaking in their sports and for the position of women in the Olympics as a whole.

Women’s events were “impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic, and we’re not afraid to say incorrect,” said Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics.

In 1928, Coubertin reiterated that women’s sports should be excluded from the Olympics but women’s sports had begun in the 1900 Paris Olympics and continued to pick up steam through the next 100 years.  Now, women represent more than 40 percent of Olympic athletes.

Billie Jean King is included in the presentation as an advocate for LGBT rights in the Olympics.  King was a tennis player and after being challenged to a “Battle of the Sexes” by a chauvenist male tennis player she raised public opinion concerning the legitimacy of women playing tennis by winning the battle against Bobby Riggs.  King received a Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2009 for her advocacy of LGBT rights.

Finally, other displays of the museum display memorabilia from various atheletes and Olympic moments, such as jerseys, suits, hockey sticks, bobsleds, weights and skates.  There is also a room showing the torches used in each Olympics and the gold, silver and bronze medal designs from every Olympic Games.  One room details the most important moments from each summer games and another for the important details concerning the winter games.  A lot of interesting facts can be learned by reading the details on each board.

Olympic park

Fountains at the entrance to the Olympic Park

Visitors to Lausanne can visit the Olympic Park along the lakefront in the Ouchy district of the city.  The park outside the museum boasts many statues depicting Olympic sports.  The museum currently costs 15 CHF for adults and 10 CHF for students, but is free with a Swiss Pass that includes the Swiss Museum Pass.  There is also a restaurant at the museum and a kiosk open during the summer.  Photography is not allowed inside the museum.

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