New high-tech Paralympic and Olympic museum opens to public

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The World Watches gallery featuring the history of each games, July 28, 2020. - LJ DAWSON
  • LJ Dawson
  • The World Watches gallery featuring the history of each games, July 28, 2020.

Colorado Springs is getting a fancy new museum full of technology and adaptive displays to celebrate Paralympians and Olympians of the past and future. 

Despite COVID-19 shrinking the hopes for throngs of visitors descending on the museum, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum will open to visitors on Thursday, July 30, albeit with temperature checks, mandatory masks and hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes — which is a good thing because there is a lot to touch in this museum.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum in southeast downtown Colorado Springs. - LJ DAWSON
  • LJ Dawson
  • U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum in southeast downtown Colorado Springs.

As any museum celebrating the peak of the human body's movement should, visitors can test their own physical capabilities with interactive sport displays that include alpine skiing and archery. All results get conveniently, if not creepily, stored in a digital locker online that can be accessed after leaving the museum.

Want to talk to an Olympian? There is an interactive display where you can ask any question into a microphone and a digital screen athlete will do their best to answer you. Want to test your speed against Olympic sprinters? There is a track that virtually pits you against the best runners in the world. There were technical difficulties preventing its use while the Indy visited with other media, but it was said that normal people barely get off the start line before the Olympians hit the finish line.

The Lab gallery features the technology that has advanced athletes through the years.
  • The Lab gallery features the technology that has advanced athletes through the years.

But perhaps the most important part, other than the hand sanitizer, is the focus on accessibility. The museum features “inclusive” designs with a focus on making the experience available to people of all abilities. Every video display features an ASL translator at the bottom corner.

“With its universal design and technology capabilities, the Museum is one of the most accessible and interactive museums in the world. Guests can customize their sport preferences and accessibility needs for a tour that is uniquely their own,” the USOPM press release says.

It is a digital museum that offers a peek into the future — less to look at and more to do, which makes one wonder about congestion because only one person at a time can shoot a bow or virtually ski-race down an alpine hill.

Olympic torches on display in the first gallery that focuses on the origin and history of the games.
  • Olympic torches on display in the first gallery that focuses on the origin and history of the games.

A 360-degree screen experience mimics athletes' experience of participating in the Parade of Nations during an Opening Ceremony, and the gift shop will feature a digital mirror where visitors can try on clothes without using a changing room — no, the Indy did not give this a try, and yes, we are still skeptical.

At almost $25 a ticket (less for kids and seniors), you’ll want to plan a few hours to get the full experience of the new technology featured. There is no local discount.

Sam the Olympic Eagle Mascot from the 1984 Olympic games displayed in the World Watches gallery. - LJ DAWSON
  • LJ Dawson
  • Sam the Olympic Eagle Mascot from the 1984 Olympic games displayed in the World Watches gallery.

After three years, the completion of the 60,000-square-foot museum also marks the hope for redeveloping Colorado Springs’ southwest downtown. Mayor John Suthers called it an “anchor” institution.

“It will also add significantly to our nearly half-billion dollar sports industry here in Colorado Springs for decades to come,” he says.

The museum is set up to take visitors through the process of being a Paralympic and Olympic athlete, featuring an entire gallery devoted to training. The opening is dedicated to the 1980 Olympians who were prevented from competing by President Jimmy Carter’s boycott of Soviet Union’s Summer Olympic Games. That’s just another reminder that, despite sports’ ability to reach beyond politics and divides, it will always remain political.

See COVID-19 health precautions taken by the museum here: https://23phti3mofer3jnkeyyjik81-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/USOPM-health-and-safety.pdf.

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