Equipment from 48 Olympic champions in Tokyo among more than 400 objects added to IOC’s heritage collections in 2021

The wrestling kit of four-time Olympic champion Mijaín López Núñez, a basketball jersey from living legend Sue Bird, Swiss tennis star Belinda Bencic’s Olympic outfit and several pieces of skateboarding equipment are among the 425 new acquisitions made by the IOC’s heritage team during 2021, with a rich haul from Tokyo 2020. 

Olympians participating at Tokyo 2020 donated more than 100 items to the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Culture and Heritage collections – all of which will head to The Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, and become part of Olympic heritage for posterity.

At each edition of the Olympic Games, the IOC’s Culture and Heritage team brings together an emblematic collection of athletes’ equipment, uniforms, objects and audiovisual documents that will encapsulate the edition for future generations. The collections at Tokyo 2020 covered 28 of the 33 sports, with a special focus on the new sports and disciplines on the Olympic programme, such as surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing, resulting in the acquisition of more than 50 pieces of skateboarding equipment, surfing suits and even parts of the climbing wall. All of these will be showcased in a brand-new exhibition at The Olympic Museum in March 2022.

Belinda Bencic ©2021 Getty Images

“We have a really exciting new collection to present to the Olympic family and the world, and look forward to displaying some of it in our upcoming ‘Riding the Olympic Wave’ exhibition,” said Yasmin Meichtry, Associate Director of the Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage (OFCH), who leads the IOC Culture and Heritage collection. “Thanks to a very successful engagement with athletes, International Sports Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs), we managed to gather 104 donations from 28 disciplines and 34 NOCs at Tokyo. Forty-eight of those were from Olympic champions.”

Additionally, fruitful collaboration with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee allowed the team to bring back to The Olympic Museum numerous artefacts such as medals, torches and licensed products that will document this edition of the Games in Olympic history. Also part of the heritage collections is the “Words of Olympians” oral history programme, with a series of interviews that preserve a first-hand account of what it is like to be at the Olympic Games, as well as the socio-cultural context of the editions. In all, 73 Words of Olympians interviews were recorded at Tokyo 2020, with Olympians, IOC members and IF representatives.

IOC

A total of 41,240 photos and 7,428 hours of video were also added to the Olympic Multimedia Library (TOML) in 2021, with most of the content coming from the coverage of Tokyo 2020.

“Besides securing the proper archiving of the Tokyo Olympic broadcast and its availability for future generations, the OFCH team is also coordinating the production of the Official Film, which will join our legacy collection of more than 100 years of Olympic films,” added Meichtry. “The Tokyo 2020 Official Film, directed by internationally renowned filmmaker Naomi Kawase, will be released in spring 2022.”

With a successful Tokyo 2020 edition under their belt, the Heritage team are now turning their attention to the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, being held from 4 to 20 February. These Games will mark the first time in history that a city has played host to both Summer (2008) and Winter editions of the Olympic Games. With more than 2,800 athletes and seven new events – women’s monobob, men’s and women’s freestyle skiing big air, and mixed-team events in short track, ski jumping, freestyle skiing aerials and snowboard cross – there are several “firsts” that the heritage team have their eyes on.

Sue Bird ©2021 Getty Images

“Our focus for the collection in Beijing is on the NOCs who perform well in the winter, but we also target the athletes with great Olympic stories,” said Audrey Bongard, Archivist Team Coordinator for the OFCH. “Stories of great perseverance, athletes overcoming obstacles to participate in the Games or amazing ‘firsts’ and records will allow us to tell the stories of the Games through those gifts to the collections. Of course, the new disciplines will be targeted, but we will also put great effort into collecting objects that are typically hard to find, such as full figure skating kits or helmets that are personalised and decorated.”

The remit of the OFCH Heritage Unit includes acquiring, preserving, restoring, documenting and ensuring the availability of more than 90,000 artefacts, 650,000 photographs, 45,000 hours of videos and 8,800 hours of sound documents, for internal and external partners.

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