Saturday, 22 July 2017

Olympic museum

As I was wandering through Lausanne, I have noticed this structure. When I came closer, I realised it is a clock. A very special clock. It shows how much time is left to the next Olympic Games.


Why are people in Lausanne so much interested in Olympic Games? Well, because Lausanne is the seat of the International Olympic Committee. This is also where the Olympic Museum, a major landmark of the city, is located.


To visit the museum we need to climb up the hill. We can take the stairs or a nicely winding road.


In the park that leads to the museum building we can admire numerous statues showing Olympic sports. We have a runner, or more precisely Emil Zátopek, a four times Olympic champion, considered to be one of the best athletes in history.


Later on you can admire the cyclists racing at full speed.


Then come the wrestlers. The interesting thing is that this particular statue was made in 1996 but it is only an enlarged copy of a statue made in 1936 and which won the second prize at a contest during the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.


Finally, we reach the main gate. Those of you who are skilled jumpers, like we horses, can try to enter over the bar.


On the right hand side of the gate you can spot the Olympic fire ...


... burning proudly next to the monument of Pierre de Coubertin, the father of modern Olympic Games.


Let's get inside. The first thing that you will notice is surely the wall made of huge pieces of stone, with golden names engraved. These are the official sponsors of the museum. There still some stones left. Just remember that each of those commemorated has donated to the museum at least one million Swiss francs.


The history of Olympic Games does not of course start in Lausanne. It starts in Greece, back in antiquity. And so starts the exhibition on the Olympic Museum. You can see there a reconstruction of the city of Olympia, where the Games used to take place, with its stadiums and temples.


Because the Games in Olympia were a religious event, dedicated to the highest Greek god - Zeus. His thirteen meters high statue in Olympia was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.


One of the peculiarities of the ancient games was that the athletes could only be man. Naked man to be more precise - the beauty of the body sculpture was appreciated almost as much as the results. As a result, women were not allowed to watch the Games. How do we know about all of this? Well, there was no Instagram at that time. So we largely source our knowledge from ancient pottery, lots of which survived until our times.


The Ancient Olympic Games were held every four years for a thousand years. Finally, the emperor Theodosius I suppressed them in 393 AD as part of the campaign to impose Christianity as the State religion of the Roman Empire (who has conquered Greece by then). It was only in late nineteenth century that Pierre de Coubertin decided to revive this wonderful idea. The museum hold a separate exhibition dedicated to the father of modern Olympic Games. It includes a reconstruction of his private office.


After founding the International Olympic Committee, Coubertin was for many years its chairman. The current chairman is for the first time in history a former Olympic Champion in foil (fencing) - Thomas Bach.


Coubertin was very eager on linking the modern Games with the Ancient ones. Therefore the first modern Games took place in Greece. They also still include some of the symbolic heritage. The Olympic Flame is always lit in Olympia itself, by a properly dressed priestess (alright, an actress but still properly dressed).


The priestess lights up the torch by use of Sun's energy. The torch is inspired by the columns in a template of Hera, the wife of Zeus.


The flame is then transported by the torch relay to the city in which the Olympic Games take place. This can mean thousands of kilometers and thousands of torch bearers. Each game uses a special torch for the relay. In the museum you can see all of them, below comes just a sample.


Finally, the Olympic Flame arrives in the city where the Games take place. It burns throughout the entire Games on a huge structure built just for this purpose, called a cauldron. This is a replica of the one from Nagano Games.


The lighting up of the cauldron takes place during the opening ceremony which is usually an amazing show, watched on television by up to a billion people.


Obviously cauldrons are not the only buildings built for the Olympic Games. First of all, each host has to have ready lots of stadiums. Do you remember where we have seen this one?


To finance such huge investments, cities often borrow money that they have to pay back over decades. They try to finance part of their spending with merchandise, including the mascots.


Of course also the televisions broadcasting the Games need to pay.


Still, the costs are high. And not only those that can be counted in dollars. The environmental impact of millions of tourists and fans cannot be neglected. Sustainability of the Games is a major concern. Some of the hosting cities make it a top priority, with recyclable places or even furniture.


But the part of the Museum that I liked the best is the one dedicated to the Games themselves and to their heroes. On the lower floor you can see lots of artefacts and read hundreds of stories related to athletes competing in all the modern Olympic Games. You can read stories from the beginning of the twentieth century, when fencing was generally a sport for soldiers who competed in uniforms.


You can also see something that looks like very old sledge. But it is actually not a sledge, this is what bobsleighs looked like in 1920s.


The more recent events are also represented. These are the costumes of Chinese ice skaters Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao, the silver medallists in figure skating from Torino.



By touching the screens, you can read stories from various periods.


A separate section of the exhibition is dedicated to the Paralympic Games.


Finally, the last exhibition, down in the basement, is dedicated to the life in the Olympic village. It discusses the nutrition, the accomodation and the preparation of the athletes. Did you know that in order to strengthten their fingers, judokas knead putty when they are relaxing? Some of them can do it for up to ninety minutes every day!


But the life in the Olympic village is not only about hard work and celebrations of victories. This is also about fair play and justice. Which includes a whole system of anti-doping.


The very last exhibition came as a lovely surprise. All my Postcrossing friends surely have in their collections some of the Olympic-themed stamps. This collection used to belong to Juan Antonio Samaranch, a former president of the International Olympic Committee.


As we leave the building, I noticed those two metals balls. These are the official shots used in the shot put competition. The one for women weighs four kilograms, the one for men weighs 7,26 kilogram. Way too much for me.


I would probably be more successful in a team sport. Assuming that I find a team my size.


If you are not too skilled with sport either, I propose that we return to the garden in front of the museum and turn our back to the front door. And then simply inhale the clear Swiss air and admire the view.


Saturday, 15 July 2017

Lausanne

The sun is shining, the soft breeze comes caressing your forehead. This is summer time at its top. No better place to enjoy it than the shores of Geneva Lake in the beautiful city of Lausanne.


Since Switzerland has a great railway network, we can arrive to Lausanne by train. The train station is lovely here.


But I propose that instead we take the boat to arrive directly to the port of Ouchy.


Actually, Ouchy is not a big haven. It is more a marina.


 Let's take a walk next to the lake. The area is filled with lots of sculptures of different sizes ...


... shapes ....


... and numbers.


If the sun starts shining too bright, there is also a small park where we can look for some shadow.


The park is decorated with flower carpets.


And fountains. This one is to commemorate the workers who were unloading goods from barges. I first thought these were three horses. But after a second look, I have realised these are actually donkeys!


I propose that we book now a room in one of the fancy hotels by the lake. The Beau Rivage Palace (owned by the superrich Swiss Sandoz family, founders of Sandoz AG, now Novartis) ...
 
 
 ... or the Château d'Ouchy which was constructed to be the residence of a bishop.


From here, we can admire the other side of the lake. I do not know if you realise but over there, it is already France!


Look, here comes the Tourist Information. Let's go inside and check if there is something more to see here.


Alright, they told me about the biggest attraction in town. But it is getting late so we will go there next time. Now we'd better go back to the lake do admire the sun falling slowly asleep.


But the shores of the lake do not sleep at all. Quite the opposite, they shine bright.


Or even better, they dance ...