U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum Opens in Colorado

With a facade designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro to personify a discus thrower's motion, a cultural tribute to America's Olympians debuts.

Located in the foreground of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado Springs, Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s latest cultural conquest, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum, has opened its doors. Inside a spiraling luminous facade—an abstract interpretation of a discus thrower’s motion—awaits 20,000 square feet of gallery space filled with artifacts, mementos, and state-of-the-art interactive storytelling features. (Team USA athletes were consulted as part of the creation process.)

Ten years in the making, the museum’s opening was supposed to coincide with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which was postponed until the summer of 2021. Like other public institutions, the museum has implemented coronavirus safety measures including timed ticketing and a souvenir stylus to use on touchscreens. The opening exhibition is a large-scale survey of more than 100 works by the artist LeRoy Neiman, the official painter of the five Olympic games from 1972 to 2010, including portraits of Carl Lewis, Caitlin Jenner (then Bruce Jenner), and 1972 US Basketball team that lost the gold medal game to the USSR in one of the most controversial finishes in the sports’ history. Showing off the museum’s high-tech capabilities, Neiman’s artworks will be projected onto 40-foot-high LED walls.

Nostalgic memorabilia pay homage to iconic Olympic moments such as sprinter Michael Johnson’s golden shoes and gymnast Shannon Miller’s scrunchie, though more clandestine tributes are present, too. Notable is the height of the interior balconies, which reflect various record-breaking long jumps, with the highest topping out 29 feet, 2.5 inches—the standing record set in 1968 by American track and field star Bob Beamon at the Mexico City games. The museum fits right at home in Colorado Springs, joining the nearby U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and Training Center to form a headquarters of sorts for the famed international competitions.

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