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Style & Experiences

Dive into the hidden treasures of the IOC

The Olympic Museum has been open to all for a long time. Yet its hidden underground is filled with unsuspected treasures. Endless shelves of running shoes, skis, sledges, medals, torches, costumes, banners, letters, all that has ever been worn, read, heard or seen at the Olympic Games for over a century is displayed in the depth of the IOC’s underground. Discover the exclusive story.

Cristina D’Agostino

By Cristina D’Agostino18 octobre 2020

In the basement of the Olympic Museum are hidden unsuspected treasures. (DR)

It was a first. Finalized on October 15, the Olympic week gathered youths from age 8 to 15 online. With the global pandemic, sports activities which are usually practiced on the shores of the Léman in Ouchy, near the Olympic Museum of Lausanne, were stimulated via digital platforms. From challenges on Facebook, TikTok or Instagram, to insights on the themes of inclusion, gender equality, as well as exploring the Games’ history, the activities happened over five days. Several thousands of teenagers ended up connecting, making this first digital try, a success.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Cathy Freeman's historic victory at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, video images of the victory were projected onto the city's opera house. (Daniel Boud)

Yet the online bet was a milestone. Another challenge happened in parallel, more exclusive and supported worldwide: the preservation of video images from Cathy Freeman’s victory at the Sydney Olympic Games of 2000 on synthetic DNA.

Preservation of video footage of Cathy Freeman's victory at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games on synthetic DNA fits in a small capsule (Noel Wheatley)

A world first that the Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage (OFCH) and the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) jointly presented on September 25th.

This was the opportunity to dive into the archives of the IOC, a maze of treasures unexpected to the greater public, with a myriad of closets protecting all the testimonies, papers or objects linked to the Olympic Games, hidden in the underground connecting the museum to the Olympic Villa.

At the heart of the museum, in between a Vreni suit and a Courrèges costume

The meeting happened at the Olympic Museum, on a Monday, during the weekly closure. Through an elevator, then a labyrinth of dark corridors, the archives of the Games appear, like a parallel universe where time stops and where only the memory of the Games takes over.

Ice skates worn by Games participants (DR)

Patricia Reymond, Responsible for collections, objects and artefacts, welcomes us. She knows this maze better than anyone. She has been roaming it for 15 years. She knows each object, each story it contains. Each have testimonial value. From a story, a victory, a disappointment, to a technological evolution as well. The shelves of sports equipment are displayed one after the other. The first ancient ice-skate blades sit next to the latest high-tech achievements. The worn-out leather spikes used by former athletes are there, next to the latest fluorescent slippers, which we can guess weigh four times less. There are tight ski suits in synthetic fiber. The one from Vreni Schneider, the Swiss Alpine ski Olympic medalist of the Lillehammer Games of 1994, is noticed by chance. Further down are stocked matrices of all the medals, then torches from all the games. There are the first athlete diplomas that were awarded to the participants of the Athens Games in 1896. For many, except for medals, these are donations from organization committees or foundation athletes.

Shoes worn by athletes (DR)

There are sports equipment created by great fashion designers for national teams, says Patricia Reymond: “Designers such as Giorgio Armani, Balmain, Courrèges have worked for the delegations. In fact, for the latter, two suits are displayed in the permanent collection. We know his collaboration as a consultant for the Munich Games of 1972 was difficult. He had to work with German companies and negotiate with the committee. This Bavarian costume (she shows a jacket in the closet) was imposed to Courrèges, as he did not want it. And by the way, he was not allowed to use the color red which he particularly loved, as Munich had excluded it in 1972.

Every accessory of all the sports represented at the Olympic Games is kept in the basements of the Olympic Museum (DR).

Balmain worked for the Grenoble Games. But it is stricking to note poetic creations with exceptional stage costumes designed for the Games’ opening started with the Games of Albertville organized by Philippe Découflé and whose costumes were designed by Philippe Guillotel. It’s a milestone in the history of the Games.”

From the first manifesto signed by Pierre de Courbertin to today’s emails

Paper archives managed by Sabine Christe, responsible for the Archive Collections, are also stored near the museum. Like the Grail finally uncovered, she reveals to us this famous first document stating the interest of Pierre de Coubertin in restarting the Games, with a protocol on the original manuscript. This first manifesto of the Olypic Games drafted in 1892 by the very hand of Pierre de Coubertin and bought at auction at 8 million euros by the Russian billionaire Alicher Ousmanov, President of the International Fencing Federation (FIE), was just added to the archives, as he donated it to the Olympic Museum last February.

Over hundreds of shelves, all the correspondence of the Olympic Committee, the presidents, the international sports federations and national committees, are curated. Some sensitive documents relate great political or ethical events, such as boycotts or cases of doping that happened over the course of the history of the games. Only the ones from the past 20 years are not there as they are still under embargo, due to official processes. They will only be handled two decades later. What about emails? The first cases have been treated and have lately been declassified. A new maze of information will soon be opening… Yasmin Meichtry, Responsible of Heritage at the OFCH, concludes: “Considering the increasing quantity of images produced during each edition of the Games - more than 7,000 hours are scheduled for Tokyo 2020 - as well as the evolution towards 4k and 8k, storing data is one of the IOC’s biggest priorities. We are therefore always looking for ways to improve technology and test innovation.”

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