The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum is completely and beautifully integrated into a seamless experience
Early last October, I had the opportunity to tour the new U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Over the years, I’ve meandered through my share of museums, including the Meeker County Museum at the Grand Army of the Republic Hall in Litchfield, Minn., where I grew up, the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., and a spattering of museums in Spain, Italy and Greece while serving in the Navy.
While no two museums are ever alike, this new museum in Colorado Springs is profoundly different. The museum recognizes Olympic and Paralympic athletes who have represented Team USA in what is considered by most to be the world’s greatest athletic competition.
Now, you may think (as I did) it’s great that a museum has a section dedicated to Olympic athletes and another area just for the Paralympic athletes, but you’d be dead wrong. From the moment I entered this museum, I realized it was no ordinary place, and not just because of the building itself. There was something that just made me feel welcome.
No one saw a guy in a wheelchair come in and immediately begin to direct me to the accessible route, while the other visitors went their own way. There were no instructions to clarify which parts of the museum were accessible by wheelchair and which parts were not and what they would offer as an alternative experience.
I was impressed with the thought and planning that went into the physical structure to make it completely inclusive. I had the expectation that a newly constructed building would meet the legal requirements of accessibility, and this facility did that in every possible way. But that wasn’t what struck me most.
This museum’s most astonishing aspect was that its very name might make you think it was two distinct venues, one for the Olympics and another for the Paralympics. I expected to see separate galleries featuring athletes from each of these distinct segments. The reality was an incredible surprise.
The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum is completely and beautifully integrated into a seamless experience. In this issue, an article will give you a more detailed description and highlight many of the really cool experiences you’ll have if you go and tour this amazing place.
I want you to know that I, as someone who cherishes the opportunity to educate the general population on all things wheelchair sports, found this complete integration nothing short of spectacular.
Everyone who tours this museum, even those who have absolutely no previous knowledge of the Paralympics, disabled sports or, for that matter, no desire to learn about them, cannot possibly leave the museum without having just received an education into this equally exciting side of world-class sports.
If you’re a die-hard Olympics or Paralympics fan, I have a suggestion for you: This summer when the Games are taking place in Tokyo and you’re wishing you were there, you could instead make a hotel reservation in downtown Colorado Springs. Tour the museum, and then watch the Games coverage at any number of great restaurants and brewpubs.
It may not be Tokyo, but I guarantee you’ll enjoy the museum and the surrounding area, and you’ll save a ton of money.