The Museum features cutting-edge technology throughout, including this exhibit in The Lab.
By Madison Jones
The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum, located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is a tribute to the Olympic and Paralympic movements with Team USA athletes at the center of that story. Moving through a narrative arc, guests follow the journey of a Team USA Olympian or Paralympian.
Throughout the experience are several hidden gems. Keep reading as Museum team members share their favorite details that guests should keep an eye out for during their visit.
Be sure to share your favorites on social media and tag @USOPMuseum!
Molding Olympus Within brought Peter Schifrin full circle, from competing as an athlete to creating a sculpture for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum.
This 400-pound bronze sculpture, a favorite of team member Trey O., was created by 1984 U.S. Olympic fencer Peter Schifrin and features the handprint of 1996 U.S. Paralympic discus thrower Nathan Perkins. You might notice the similarities between the piece and the museum’s design: it’s no coincidence – Schifrin and the building’s design architect, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, were inspired by an athlete in motion, a discus thrower.
Guests can learn about all of the athletes, coaches, teams and special contributors in the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame.
Upon entering the Museum, you’ll definitely be eager to begin your journey but don’t forget to explore the elements of the atrium, including the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame, which team member Mandy M. encourages guests to visit. Established in 1979 with an inaugural class in 1983, the Hall of Fame never had a formal home until now. The Museum’s atrium features a Hall of Fame sculpture and four digital pylons where guests can learn about all of the Hall of Famers, including notables such as Muhammad Ali, Candace Cable and Peggy Fleming.
Looking all the way up to the highest overlook may put a crick in your neck, but that’s how far Bob Beamon leapt to win gold at Mexico City 1968.
While in the Museum’s atrium, team member Caleb T. advises you to look up. Jutting out into the atrium space are four observation platforms at different heights. Guests in the galleries can walk out onto the platforms to see below. Pay special attention to the highest – the height of this platform happens to be nearly the same distance as Bob Beamon’s incredible 1968 long jump of 29 feet 2 ½ inches that stood as the world record for 23 years and remains the Olympic record 52 years later.
Since Berlin 1936, the torch relay has been an enduring symbol of the Games. Learn about the details and design of every Olympic torch as well as every torch relay since the tradition began.
Guests take the elevator to the third floor of the Museum, where they enter the Introduction to the Games gallery. The highlight of the space is Gordy Crawford’s complete collection of Olympic torches, complemented by an interactive exhibit detailing each torch relay and design. Don’t skip Barcelona 1992 and Lillehammer 1994, says team member Mac B. They feature a cauldron lit by bow and arrow and the first torch relay ski jump in history.
Michael Johnson is the only man to sweep the 200m and 400m at a single Olympic Games.
The Lab highlights the science and technology behind Team USA’s success, including four interactive stations where guests can use the state-of-the-art, gesture-controlled OLED screens to learn more about specific equipment. Remember to take a peek at Michael Johnson’s signature gold spikes from his historic 200/400 double at Atlanta 1996, which is one of team member Laura T.’s favorites.
When the center-hung scoreboard was dismantled in Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, the Museum obtained one of the 850-pound panels. The big question: What score and time should be put on the scoreboard?
In the transition between the Summer and Winter Games gallery, team member J’nae S. says to hang a quick left and detour into the Chapman Events Space to find one of the scoreboard panels hung in the center of the arena during the Miracle on Ice, when Team USA stunned the Soviet Union in hockey at Lake Placid 1980. The scoreboard features the final score, 4-3, with three seconds on the clock, the exact time of Al Michaels’ famous call, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”
What are Olympians’ and Paralympians’ favorite foods? How do they prepare for competition or cope with stress? Learn about everything that goes into being a world-class athlete and more.
Located in the World Watches gallery, the Ask an Athlete exhibit allows guests to have a full conversation with Paralympic gold medalist Matt Scott and Olympic gold medalist Kikkan Randall. Fan of Vanilla Ice? Team member Whit B. recommends asking Kikkan what her favorite song is.
The Timeline highlights how social and historical events influence the Games and how the Games themselves shape the world.
The Timeline exhibit in the World Watches gallery gives an overview of world and pop culture events during the years of each Olympic and Paralympic Games. Listen carefully – do those voices sound familiar? Team member Emma P. notes that each timeline piece is narrated by Hall of Fame Olympian John Naber and Paralympian Bonnie St. John, the first Black athlete, Olympian or Paralympian, to win a medal at the Winter Games.
Check out the Neimanizer to see how the five-time Olympic painter might have painted you at the Games.
The Museum’s rotating gallery currently features the art of LeRoy Neiman, official Olympic painter for five Games. Tucked in the back is the Neimanizer, an interactive exhibit where guests can transform themselves into a LeRoy Neiman painting, one of team member Cheyenne L.’s favorite elements in the Museum.
In addition to a nearly complete collection of Olympic medals, the Museum also features holograms highlighting Paralympic medals.
While Gordy Crawford’s collection of Olympic medals line the ramp into the theater queuing space, team member Gary H. notes that the Museum offers live Paralympic medal demonstrations each Saturday from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. in the atrium. Varying from their Olympic counterpart, Paralympic medals feature more tactile elements for athletes with various disabilities to experience the medals. The Rio 2016 medals were the first to include bearings inside the medals so athletes with visual impairments can hear the differences between gold, silver and bronze.
Hate trying on clothes? No worries – the Museum Shop allows guests to virtually try on apparel.
The Museum Shop has all of your U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum, Team USA, Olympic City USA and other apparel needs. The shop also uses Neimanizer technology to create a virtual fitting room, which team member Ashley S. enjoys because it allows guests to virtually “try on” merchandise easily and contactless.
Pin trading is a quintessential part of any Olympics or Paralympics.
Pin trading is a huge element of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, dating back to the first Games in 1896. Athletes, volunteers, spectators and more all participate in pin trading … and so does the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum! Team member Mike T. points out that any guest who purchases a Museum pin at the Museum Shop can trade it for one of the many vintage pins in our collection.
It’s not on the menu, but you’ll surely feel better after a TC Special.
Two-time Paralympian – and resident chocolate ice cream fiend – team member Tyler Carter noticed that the Flame Café menu originally included only a vanilla milkshake. As chocolate ice cream is integral to his training – or so he insists – Tyler worked with executive chef Nick Estell to create the TC Special, a classic chocolate milkshake. It is the Café’s first secret menu item; you will have to ask for it by name.