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  • Doha Mounts Olympic Exhibition


    The Doha skyline from the exhibition space. (ATR)
    (ATR) Devotees of the Olympics should consider a trip to Qatar for an extraordinary exhibition of relics and memorabilia of the Games from ancient Olympia to London 2012.

    “Olympics Past and Present” is the biggest project so far for the team of experts working on the creation of an Olympic museum in Doha, still a couple of years away. The 1200-piece collection is housed in a 2,000 square meter space next door to the Museum of Islamic Art on the shoreline of the Persian Gulf. There is no admission charge for the exhibition, covered by principal sponsor Exxon Mobil.

    Dr. Christian Wacker leads a tour of the exhibition. (ATR)
    Curated by Dr. Christian Wacker, he considers the exhibition a pinnacle of his 30-year career as an Olympic historian that includes director of the Olympic museum of the DOSB in Germany.

    Wacker now heads the Olympic Museum project for the Qatar Museum Authority.

    “For myself personally, it is the biggest and also the most complex. Fortunately we have a good team in place that includes 25 people who are closely working together,” Wacker tells Around the Rings.

    Field hockey in ancient Greece. (ATR)
    The show first takes visitors through a 600 exhibit collection of artifacts and reproductions from the era of the Ancient Olympics. The exhibits include statuary, urns and other pottery, metalwork such as swords and armor and pieces from the grounds of Olympia. Most are on loan, from the museums and governments of other countries, such as Greece and the Vatican. 

    Scale models of Ancient Olympia help bring the ruins to life, but the most striking illustration, quite literally, is a 10 meter-long canvas that provides a giant perspective of what the Olympic sanctuary may have looked 2500 years ago. While simply reproduced from a smaller illustration, the large-scale panorama of Olympia is still one-of-a-kind.
    A display on the boycot era of the modern Games. (ATR)
    The other half of the exhibition covers the modern Olympics under the rubric “Olympics: Values – Competitions – Mega Events”. It is linked to the ancient exhibits by a “time tunnel” that takes visitors through the two millennium that led to the formation of the modern games.

    A renaissance text references the ancient Games. Other manuscripts show scholarly interest in the Olympics across the years, even before German archeologists uncovered the Olympia sanctuary more than 150 years ago.

    Papers and other manuscripts document how the Wenlock Games of 19th century England led to the birth of the modern Olympics in 1896. The first-ever sports photography is included.

    The modern exhibits
    The history of the Olympic movement in Qatar now includes two Olympic bids. (ATR)
    provide an unsurpassed view of the aesthetics of icons from the Games. The posters (all originals) from Stockholm to London fill an entire wall. Another collection shows off every torch used in relays from 1936 to 2012, including that rarest of all, Helsinki 1952 (a loaner). Wacker says gathering all the torches was maybe the biggest challenge for this show.

    Mascots are part of the show, too, starting with Waldi from Munich and following with the rest of the menagerie and assorted hominids that have been symbols of the Games for 40-some years.

    Tickets, currency of the realm during the Games, are on display from every Olympics, another first for the exhibition.

    And in a fitting close to the show, Qatar’s own brief history at the Olympics is highlighted. Tablets connected to headphones tell the story of Qatari athletes to youngsters who come with their classes to see the exhibition. Even Doha’s two bids for the Olympics are included.

    “This exhibition is part of our policy to create awareness about the Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum,” says director Wacker.

    “When it will be opened, hopefully in 2015, it will be showcasing the heritage of this part of the world on one side, and on the other one of the main places for all Olympic heritage,” he says.

    The exhibition has alerted Wacker and his associates to the sensitivity they must bring to their work in Qatar.

    Two statues of nude Greek men were returned to the government of Greece when it was decided the pieces could be found to be offensive by some museum-goers. They were never included in the exhibition when it opened in March, Wacker tells ATR.

    “This was not due to censorship,” says a statement from the Qatar Museum Authority. “The decision to remove the objects was based on the flow of the exhibition, awareness of the outreach to all schools and families in Qatar, and desire to be sensitive to community needs and standards,” says the QMA.

    Wacker denies that consideration was given to displaying the statues with cloth covering the offending anatomy. He says a black drape positioned two meters in front of the statues was considered.

    Reported in Doha by Ed Hula.

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