Before the kick-off this summer, museums get ready for the Olympic Games

Before the kick-off this summer, museums get ready for the Olympic Games

On the occasion of the 33rd Olympiad this summer in Paris, many French museums have undertaken to keep the flame alive by offering tours that reflect different themes around the Games and sport. Ready, set, visit!

The Olympic Games (OG) geopolitical or art history version? In Paris, visitors will have the choice of whether they go to the National Museum of the History of Immigration or the Louvre. Behind the facade of the first – which evokes the architecture of Greek temples in an Art Deco style – he will be able to explore chronologically each of the 33 editions of the Olympic Games of the modern era. Those which were indeed organized, but also those which were suppressed, due to world conflict, in 1916, 1940 and 1944.

From the first Games in Athens in 1896, bringing together 245 white male athletes from 14 nations, to those in Paris in 2024 which will bring together 10,600 women and men equally from 206 countries, this retrospective considers sport from the perspective of developments of the last hundred and twenty-eight years: crises, wars, emancipation movements… “The aim is to show, through this global competition, the societal and political issues of sport, the rivalries between the great nations, the struggles of minorities », Claims the exhibition curator.

The Coubertin passion

To do this, you have to take your time and read: dozens of informative panels tell the story of this cohabitation between sport and geopolitics. There is also a lot to see: graphics, archive films, objects, posters and photographs immortalizing the performances. Thus, this famous photo of the African-American Jesse Owens, whose long jump of 8.06 m in Berlin in 1936, demonstrated to Adolf Hitler the emptiness of the Nazi racial theories.

In the Richelieu gallery of the Louvre Palace, the Games took place in a completely different way. Here, we are talking about the context in which, at the turn of 1894, the modern Olympic movement was born in Paris.

At the end of the 19th century, in an atmosphere of rivalry between European powers, archaeological excavations in Greece revived the interest of intellectuals from the Old Continent in Athenian Antiquity. Baron Pierre de Coubertin and some of his friends then became passionate about the issue.

It was around these exchanges between Hellenist scholars that the project arose to resurrect the Games which took place regularly in Olympia, from the 8th century BC. BC to the 4th century AD. Among the 120 works of art and documents presented, we will highlight a 19th century casting of the famous Discobolus, attributed to the sculptor Myron (5th century BC)

You can also admire the first Olympic cup, designed by the French linguist Michel Bréal (1832-1915), inventor of the marathon. In fact, this test did not exist in Antiquity. The first winner was the Greek Spyridon Louis in 1896, during the Athens Olympics.

In Burgundy, the exhibition at the MuséoParc Alésia takes us back to those distant times when athletes from Greek cities competed every four years under the gaze of their gods. You have to take a step aside to find yourself in Olympia, the Greek cradle of the Games, as you visit the impressive cylindrical building set in the middle of the plain, near the Gallo-Roman site of the commune of Alise-Sainte- Reine (Côte-d'Or) where Caesar defeated Vercingetorix in 52 BC. AD

“On the basis of archaeological excavations in Greece, we were able to reconstruct the conditions in which these sporting games took place,” specifies co-curator Maud Goldscheider. Knowledge transmitted through reproductions of sculptures, posters, graphics, objects and multimedia devices.

We discover that the athletes, heroes of their time, were exclusively men, sometimes competing naked… to prevent a woman from fraudulently participating in competitions! Mirroring modern disciplines, those of Antiquity are recalled: pugilism (ancestor of boxing) or even chariot racing. Another surprising information: there was no Olympic flame at the time, this rite actually dating back to the Amsterdam Olympics in 1928.

Finally, on the museum terrace, a work made up of recorded noises of athletes during exercise makes the link with the current Games. The visitor is thus immersed in the reality of the slogan “higher, further, stronger” and understands that the main thing is not to win, but to participate!

More practical information on the Olympic exhibitions

And also: the other Olympic exhibitions to discover

In Rennes, the Olympics in the lens of Raymond Depardon

The Olympic Games 1964-1980
Frac de Bretagne, in Rennes
From June 15, 2024 to January 5, 2025. Information: 02 99 37 37 93

From Tokyo in 1964 to Moscow in 1980, photographer Raymond Depardon covered six Olympics. He brought back numerous photos which will be exhibited from June 15 at the Frac de Bretagne. Among the prints, we find the famous raised fist of black American athletes at the Mexico Olympics in 1968, to protest against the discrimination of African Americans in their own country.

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