For just a few minutes, I stood on the platform representing Olympic Gold, listened as the national anthem played and experienced a fraction of the heady rush that any Olympic athlete has felt when standing on these podiums.
Then, I felt ridiculous and stepped down, continuing my tour of the International Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Standing on the Olympic podiums with your national anthem playing in the background is just one of the more engaging experiences at this highly interactive museum that highlights the world's greatest athletic achievements.
So - why Lausanne for an Olympic Museum? Why not Athens - home of the original games? Well, thanks to Switzerland's neutrality in World War I and later, World War II, the International Olympic Committee moved its headquarters from Paris to Lausanne in 1915, just as the flames of World War I crept ever closer to Paris. Leaders at the time did not want the Olympic Games - a non-political entity - to become a casualty of war.
The museum first opened in 1993, but closed in 2011 for nearly two years to undergo massive renovations that now make it one of the most interactive museums visitors have ever experienced. Run track and compare your time with the fastest man in the world Usain Bolt. Design a swimsuit with less drag. Or get your Bryant Gumbel on with a stint behind a microphone broadcasting some of the greatest moments in Olympic history.
The museum is divided into three sections and each deserves considerable attention and appreciation. The first, of course, focuses on the history of the games in a regal, travel-back-in-time experience. Seriously this is not a display case or reader board filled with words. You walk into a near recreation of the Temple of Zeus from 700 BC and experience pageantry of the warrior goddess Athena, and feel the wrath of Emperor Theodosius as he banned the games in the fourth century AD.
In the category of surprisingly interesting is an exhibit about the first whistles used by Olympic referees. Another display of medal designs and how they've evolved over the years is kind of fun, as is the exhibit of all of the Olympic torches carried over the years. Pick one up yourself and see how far you can run with it, and then let's think about a lighter design.
Glittery is one adjective that can be used to describe the section on costumes worn by Olympic athletes from around the world. From one simple shoe worn by Jesse Owens to Katarina Witt's sensational dresses worn on the ice, these exhibits pulse with the energy and talent of those who wore these one of a kind outfits. Plus, it's rather interesting to learn how engineering has evolved these simple items of clothing to become precise tools in the athletes' closets.
Your visit to the Olympic Museum could take all day. There's a wonderful cafe and gift shop as well, but strolling the grounds overlooking beautiful Lake Leman is a perfect wrap-up to the detailed exhibits inside. Numerous bronze sculptures of athletes from Olympic sports dot the terraces and invite playful interaction. From soccer to wrestling to gymnasts on balance beams, the spirit of the games is prevalent throughout the gardens and courtyards.
To accentuate your Olympic visit to Lausanne, consider accommodations at the Hotel Continental, directly across the street from the Main Train Station in Lausanne. It's convenient, affordable and decorated with Olympic memorabilia.
Posters from various games line the hallways, collections of pins are on display in the dining room, and the Olympic rings adorn many public places throughout the hotel.
What are some of your favorite museums?
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A Midwest farm girl at heart, Diana Lambdin Meyer caught the roaming bug early in life. Diana married well - to a photographer who also has the travel bug and whose work in still and video complements her words. Now based in the Kansas City area, Diana is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers who makes a full-time living on the road and at the keyboard. Read about Diana's adventures on her blog, Mojotraveler or follow her on Twitter or Google Plus.
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