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  • Writer's pictureCoach Chris Chougaz

"Olympic Culture and Heritage: Connecting Sports, Arts, and Education"

The Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage (OFCH) takes the lead in guiding the cultural and values-based educational activities of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Devoted to the global promotion and dissemination of Olympism, OFCH seamlessly connects sports, culture, art, history, and education. The Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage includes the Heritage Unit of the IOC, the Olympic Studies Centre, the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the Unit for International Cultural Affairs. Let's delve into the heart of Olympic culture at the Olympic Museum. The Olympic Museum in Lausanne: Nestled in the heart of Olympic culture and heritage, the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, serves as the primary narrator of the Olympic idea. More than just a repository of collections, the museum offers a journey of discovery into the Olympic Movement and its substantial contributions to society. Integrating arts and culture has been a longstanding part of the Olympic program, echoing the ancient Greek belief in achieving harmony by exercising both the body and the mind.


The idea of creating The Olympic Museum came from Baron Pierre de Coubertin himself, IOC President from 1896 to 1925 and founder of the modern Olympic Games. In his plan for the “New Olympia”, which he wished to set up on the shores of Lake Geneva, this

visionary educator envisioned a place that would bring together historical and contemporary Olympism. Thus, a predecessor of the Museum first emerged at the Villa Mon-Repos in Lausanne, the residence of the Baron and headquarters of the IOC between 1929 and 1937.

On 23 June 1993, Pierre de Coubertin’s dream finally turned into reality when the then-IOC

President, Juan Antonio Samaranch, inaugurated The Olympic Museum in Lausanne.

Designed by Mexican architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez and Swiss architect Jean-Pierre

Cahen, The Museum was the embodiment of the universal values of sport propagated

so ardently by Pierrde Coubertin throughout his life: culture, sharing and education.

Later in 2007, under the impetus of then-IOC President Jacques Rogge, the International Olympic Committee decided to entirely renovate The Olympic Museum and developed an ambitious project in line with its mission to create an institution of international influence. In 2013, a multi-disciplinary team was chosen: The renovation of the building was entrusted to Swiss architects Brauen & Wälchli (BWTK); the exhibition areas to Paragon Creative, Center Screen productions and Mather&Co; and the visitor routes to Metaphor. The transformation of the park was undertaken by l’Atelier du Paysage. After 23 months of work, The Olympic Museum, or TOM as it is affectionately known, was reborn at the end of 2013, with twice the surface area! Thus modernised and endowed with stateof-the-art technological innovations and new scenography, TOM joined ranks with the foremost museums of the 21st century. At the same time, responsibility towards the environment remained a top priority, The Olympic Museum has made a commitment to sustainability: recycling of waste, installation of solar panels and LED lightbulbs, use of water from the lake for heating, and planting of local native species of vegetation in its vast grounds.


The Museum is not about collections! It’s about an idea: Olympism. Indeed, TOM’s vocation is to let people discover the Olympic Movement, witnessing its essential contribution to society, and to transmit the Olympic values beyond the celebration of the Games and competitions. Sport is, of course, the main element of a visit to The Olympic Museum. However, history, culture, design, technology and sociology are also some of the themes addressed within this new museography, which reflects the richness and diversity of Olympism. TOM’s main objective is to promote the Olympic Movement in its entirety, through the stories of the athletes, as well as the creators, builders, artists and volunteers involved in the Movement. More indirectly, The Museum highlights the ideals and values of sport and the sense of history. The Museum offers an international multimedia platform and an essential cultural voice to serve the Olympic idea.

From the Birth of Modern Olympics to Today: With the birth of the modern Olympic Games in 1896, Pierre de Coubertin advocated for a robust alliance "between athletes, artists, and spectators." In the early editions of the Games (1912-1948), art competitions, including architecture, literature, musical composition, painting, and sculpture, were part of the program, with medals awarded for artistic achievements. Today, in close collaboration with numerous partners and cultural stakeholders within and beyond the Olympic Movement, the IOC, through OFCH, leads or supports the production of artistic and cultural programs during the Games and between editions. Olympism becomes visible through various initiatives.

Olympism Made Visible: "Olympism Made Visible" is an international photographic project that goes beyond professional sports to explore Olympic values and their impact when sports are in the service of humanity through community-based activities worldwide. The project showcases the power of sports as a tool for social evolution and change, capturing the essence through the lenses of renowned international photographers at the intersection of fine arts and social documentary. Olympic Art Visions: The "Olympic Art Visions" program commissions leading contemporary artists appointed by the IOC to create large-scale public art installations and participatory "live performances" during and between different editions of the Games. The program aims to bring people together by presenting innovative art in public spaces and encouraging them to engage in a new dialogue around Olympic ideals and values. Olympian Artists: Initiated by the Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage at PyeongChang 2018, the "Olympian Artists" program celebrates the ties between sports and culture. It provides Olympic athletes with artistic talent opportunities to produce and present new artworks during or between Olympic Games editions, sharing their inspirational life stories with a broader audience.

Olympic Legacy in Art: Since the early 20th century, each edition of the Olympic Games has left behind a legacy of powerful images: the Olympic Films.

The Official Olympic Films go beyond the boundaries of traditional Olympic documentaries, creating compelling cinema as part of the cultural heritage of the Olympic Games. Artistic Olympic Posters: Since the early 20th century, Organizing Committees of the Olympic Games (OCOGs) have created posters to promote and advertise this major sports and cultural event. Some OCOGs have invited internationally renowned artists to create highly individualistic posters, becoming part of a strong visual legacy forever connected to a specific edition of the Games. The Olympic Market: Debuted at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the Olympic Market is a unique cultural platform created by OFCH to promote Olympic culture and values to a global audience. Inspired by the ancient Greek tradition of a social hub, the Market serves as a space for cross-cultural dialogue and discovery at the intersection of sports, art, culture, and education. Images & Sounds: The Images & Sounds team is responsible for acquiring, storing, documenting, and providing access to the photographic, audiovisual, and auditory heritage of the IOC. Collections are significantly enriched after each edition of the Olympic Games, capturing moments from competitions and ceremonies to behind-the-scenes and operational centers. Digitally archived collections can be accessed online by interested parties in the Olympic Movement through the Olympic Multimedia Library. Conclusion: As we explore collections spanning the period 1894-1998, the Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage stands as a guardian of the rich cultural tapestry woven into the fabric of the Olympic Movement. Through art, education, and cultural initiatives, OFCH ensures that the Olympic legacy continues to inspire and unite people around the world.

“Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.” Pierre De Coubertin

You can adapt your virtual visit to fit what you are interested in and want to see. Move around the rooms of The Olympic Museum as if you were there, and check out some of the detailed content!

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