World's Newest Olympic Museum Opens in Vancouver

(ATR) The world’s newest Olympic museum - the first in North America - is open. Bob Mackin reports.

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(ATR) The world’s newest Olympic museum — the first in North America — is open.

The $10 million Richmond Olympic Experience, or ROX for short, opened its doors at the Richmond Olympic Oval on Nov. 21, just a few weeks shy of the Vancouver 2010 speed skating arena’s seventh anniversary.

The project began with $575,000 in seed money in 2011 and gained IOC sanctioning through its Olympic Museums Network. Major funding sources include sponsorship ($2.5 million), local tourism subsidies ($2.5 million) and the Oval Corporation Capital Reserve ($1.5 million). The facility boasts $2 million worth of artifacts.

"Some of these artifacts are loaned to us, some of them have been acquired ourselves," said City of Richmond spokesman Ted Townsend. "I don’t think there’s any exhibit that’s pure on-loan. We have a lot of athletes who have donated to us."

The display cases include Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati’s gear from his Nagano 1998 gold medal victory and the spikes worn by Atlanta 1996 100 meter gold medalist Donovan Bailey from his duel against Michael Johnson the next year. Alexa Loo, a Richmond city councilor and Vancouver 2010 snowboarder, has an item on display: her training journal.

While ROX does commemorate Canadian athletes, Vancouver 2010 and the role played by the Games’ iconic venue, ROX is about more than winter sport and the home team.

Pursuit of a Dream, the showcase film, includes clips of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps interspersed with the stories of Canadian youth athletes beginning their Olympic and Paralympic journeys. Museum-goers walk the same steps to the main floor of the Oval as speed skaters did in 2010, although the space is now occupied by ice hockey rinks and basketball and tennis courts.

"If you were an Olympic speed skater, all the change rooms were on this level," Townsend said.

"Team Canada had the prime change room closest to the bottom of the stairs. They would come out of the changing rooms with their skates already on, come up the stairs to the infield of the speed skating track to prepare for their competition."

Canadian Olympic and Richmond sports history displays lead to the mezzanine and the ticketed section of ROX.

The interactive exhibits tell the story of the Olympics, from triumph to tragedy, and encourage participation in sport. There are sport simulators for ski jumping, bobsleigh, sit ski, kayak and auto racing. The facility includes space for private and corporate receptions. Admission is $17 for adults, $13 for youth and seniors, $11 for children six to 12 years of age. Children five and under are free.

Every community where the Vancouver 2010 torch relay stopped is commemorated by a plaque embedded, in order, on plazas on two sides of the building’s exterior.

Vancouver’s B.C. Place Stadium, which was the ceremonies venue, also includes a Vancouver 2010 gallery in the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. The Vancouver Museum and City of Vancouver archives both have substantial holdings. Some of the archival records, specifically board minutes, financial reports and correspondence, are sealed from public view until 2025.

Written by Bob Mackin

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