It’s now less than a year until the 28th (modern Era) Olympic Games are officially opened at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio. The buzz surrounding the worlds greatest event grows louder with every passing moment, but if you just can’t wait until then the perfect preparation is a visit to Le Musée Olympique, a wonderful permanent exhibition located at the home of the International Olympic Committee based here in Lausanne.
For someone who is not a massive follower of athletics I was really surprised at how interesting I found the Olympic Museum. The Museum is split over three floors, the first part, ‘Olympic World’ offers a look into the Olympic movements beginnings in Ancient Greece, moving on to it’s rebirth in Athens in 1896. The story is accompanied by videos and interactive pieces (everything is in English too) and it’s fascinating to see all the historic pieces, including all the Olympic torches from the modern day games and how they’ve developed with the technology.
Each part of the Museum is beautifully and thoughtfully laid out, none more so than the second floor, here the focus is on the ‘Olympic Games’ itself. Among the memorabilia, costumes and athletic equipment from previous Games there is also an immersive split screen video wall showing highlights from many of the past opening and closing ceremonies.
The out-pouring of pride and emotion from the athletes in the clips and the euphoric one-ness created by the huge spectacles creates a visual delight that is all consuming and incredibly stirring.
The last floor of the exhibition looks at ‘Olympic Spirit’ and recreates the atmosphere inside the Olympic Village. There is information on the huge logistic job organising the athletes and their diets, training programmes even religious preferences. There are also opportunities to test your balance, agility and mental skills, including an interactive machine that simulates some of the activities in the modern Pentathlon, not to mention climbing onto a genuine Oylmpic podium.
In the splendid gardens a 100m track uses lights to show how fast Usain Bolt could run along it (amazingly fast) and a high jump set to the current world record height (very high). There are also Olympic themed sculptures including Auguste Rodin’s ‘The American Athlete’ and ‘Cyclistes’, a sculpture by Gabor Mihaly (see top of page). I should really mention the weekend Brunch in the top floor restaurant, some of the best food I’ve ever seen/eaten in a museum. Many locals use it as a weekend meeting point to read the papers and soak up the views over Lake Geneva.
The Museum is open 10am-6pm daily (closed on Mondays) For more info visit www.olympic.org/museum
Where to Stay
I stayed at the beautiful hotel, Chateau d’Ouchy, overlooking Lake Geneva. The 50 room former Chateau was sensitively renovated a few years ago and the centre tower dates right back to the 12th century. As a result the Hotel is stlyish mix of old character and modern facilites. The rooms are bright, airy and breakfast on the patio overlooking the lake is fantastic. Just don’t leave your croissant unattended or one of the tiny birds from the nearby foliage will swoop down and grab it! Because of its prime position, it’s also a popular, but peaceful evening drinks location with locals and tourists alike.
2020 Winter Youth Games
The Olympic connection in Lausanne is set to grow stronger in the coming years following its successful bid to host the 2020 Winter Youth Games. The third event of its kind (the second being in Lillehammer, Norway next year) over 1,000 athletes between the ages of 15 to 18 will take part.
Overall, Lausanne is brimming with opportunities for a packed weekend stay or longer. It’s safe, the people are friendly and exclusive enough to just enjoy without feeling like a tourist.
Only an hour by plane from the UK to Geneva and 40mins on the train in Switzerland, Lausanne is more accessible than most parts of the UK. I travelled with Swiss Air from Heathrow. For more info visit www.swiss.com
For travel tickets in Switzerland visit www.swisstravelsystem.com
For all other information on Lausanne visit www.lausanne-tourisme.ch