U.S. opens Olympic and Paralympic museum: A ‘home for our stories’

The Colorado-based museum features 12 exhibits and state-of-the-art technology to help tell the stories of over 12,000 Olympians in American history.

By Nick McCarvel

Tucked amidst the Rocky Mountains in what’s known as “Olympic City USA,” the United States Olympic & Paralympic Museum – a first of its kind in the U.S. – opens this week with 12 galleries that tell the stories of Team USA athletes.

“It’s great to be a part of history,” said 1968 gold medallist in figure skating, Peggy Fleming, at the museum’s soft opening.

The Colorado Springs, Colo., -based museum is eight years in the making, and Fleming was joined by fellow USOPC Hall of Famer John Naber, a four-time Olympic gold medallist in swimming, to help open it to the public.

At 60,000 square feet (5575 sq. metres), the museum is a vast expansion from the small exhibit area that was featured at the nearby USOPC Training Center.

USOPC Museum, Colorado Springs, USA (Photo: USOPC)

Museum a 'home' for Olympians

"(We are) excited that we now have a physical home for our stories… as well as a place for our families and friends to gather and celebrate,” said Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, a 1984 Olympic champion in the 100m hurdles and a member of the museum’s board. “We hope that every U.S. Olympian and Paralympian will find their way home to the museum.”

What museumgoers will find when they make it there is a collection of historical artifacts and athlete stories told via galleries like Medal Collection, Athlete Training, Parade of Nations and others. Cutting edge and interactive technology is included throughout the museum, which also contains dedicated Summer and Winter Games galleries.

A final gallery will be updated and rotating, as well.

While tickets are on sale and pre-cautions are being taken due to the COVID-19 pandemic, guests can customise their sport preferences and accessibility needs to tailor their museum experience. The USOPC teamed up with 11 Olympians and Olympic hopefuls as part of the museum’s board to dream up the best display of American Olympic stories as possible.

1980 boycotted Games athletes featured

“Team USA and the Olympic and Paralympic Games have the incredible power to inspire and unite us,” said Sarah Hirshland, the USOPC CEO. “This permanent tribute honours the history and commitment of Team USA athletes… while also serving as inspiration for the next generation of Olympic and Paralympic athletes and fans.”

The opening of the museum comes on the 40th anniversary of the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics, which the U.S. boycotted for political reasons. A part of the museum honours the athletes who qualified for that Olympic team but did not compete, which numbers over 450.

The museum took three years to build and is just a few miles away from the organisation’s headquarters. While COVID-19 restrictions will temper expectations, officials are hoping for upwards of 300,000 visitors each year, according to the Associated Press.

For the time being, tickets will have assigned times and exhibits will only allow a certain amount of people at any given time.

Technology, art are part of museum's pull

The cutting-edge personalised technology that is featured includes guests being able to pinpoint a person, team or sport they are most interested in learning about and being alerted at each exhibit when relevant content is in front of them.

The museum has opened with its first rotating exhibit featuring art by famed American painter LeRoy Neiman, who is known for his bright, colourful canvases. He’s painted a collection of iconic Olympic moments, including athletes like Carl Lewis, Bonnie Blair and Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner. Neiman painted at the Games from 1972 to 2010.

The museum is part of the International Olympic Committee’s Museums Network, and features a shop and café, Flame Café.

More information on the USOPC Museum at its website. (Photos via USOPC)

USPOC museum: An inside glance