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The Purpose of Olympic Museums

An article in The Guardian in late April mentioned that plans for an Olympic Museum in London have been scrapped.  In some respects, this is a surprising development given the role the Olympics have played in London’s sport history and heritage.

What remains unclear is what purpose the organizing committee hoped a museum would serve post-Games. Certainly there may be some in tourists and locals wanting a place to remember and re-live the Games experience?  However, a repository for Games relics and memories doesn’t appear to be enough to sustain such a museum long-term, particularly given London’s very competitive museum and heritage market.

Some research I published in the Journal of Sport & Tourism a few years ago about the Olympic Hall of Fame and Museum in Calgary suggests the role a post-Games Olympic museum.  Mangers at the museum and its host site, Canada Olympic Park (C.O.P), were adamant that their museum was not just about the 1988 Winter Olympics.  Rather, they saw it as a way of promoting the sports and athletes of Olympic sport, as well as emphasizing C.O.P. as vibrant and active athlete training centre – and not simply a relic of a distant Games.  Certainly, the museum played a role in C.O.P.’s tourism development initiatives (it remains the most visited tourist attraction in Calgary) and artifacts from the 1988 Olympics remained a part of the museum displays. However, the museum’s role was much more tied to the current operations and mission of C.O.P. and its managing organization (at the time, the Calgary Olympic Development Agency or C.OD.A.) – that of athlete training and development.  The museum has since been replaced with the more extensive Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, suggesting the significant role sport heritage plays in the current operation of C.O.P.

Perhaps the proposed Olympic museum in London didn’t have these legacy outputs and, as such, was scrapped?

1 Comment

  1. […] have also become part of the relief effort. Canada Olympic Park – a location discussed in a previous post – is located at a high elevation and has become a shelter and evacuation area for local […]

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