Many athletics moments included in new temporary display taking visitors ‘behind the screen’

Olympic broadcasting has been put in the spotlight at The Olympic Museum with a new exhibition – The Olympic Games: Behind the Screen – opening this week.

The temporary display, which runs at the museum in Lausanne in Switzerland from today (February 19) until next January, explores the history of broadcasting the Games on radio and TV and takes a look ahead to how the Games will be experienced in the future.

Broadcasting the Games not only gives fans the opportunity to follow the action from afar and creates a global community around the host city, but the fees for broadcasting rights are a vital, and the biggest, source of income. An Olympic Channel is also set to be launched in the next few years – probably after Rio 2016 but before Tokyo 2020 – following approval of the Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendation, with implementation of this recommendation having begun in December.

At the time, IOC president Thomas Bach spoke about the importance of the channel in providing a platform for the promotion of Olympic sports, athletes and the Olympic values beyond Games time itself. “Interest in the Olympic Games is higher now than ever, and recent editions have enjoyed record broadcast audiences around the world,” he said.

“The idea of the channel is to harness this interest and extend it beyond the Games, in a way that will engage audiences, especially young audiences, in the power of what sport can do.”

© 1948 Londres - Comité International Olympique (CIO)

The new three-part exhibition at The Olympic Museum focuses on audience experience in ‘hearing and seeing the Games’ – providing an insight into radio and television coverage – as well as getting visitors involved in the broadcasting process. Transporting them back to London on July 29, 2012, between the hours of 3pm and 4pm, visitors experience one hour of broadcasting the Games. The final part of the exhibition looks ahead to the future of broadcasting. Interactivity and audiovisual coverage is key, with visitors given the opportunity to test their knowledge through to having a go at commentating.

Many of the images and much of the footage on display features athletics events, with Jim Owens, communications professor and dean of the School of Communications Arts at Asbury University in the United States and scientific curator of the exhibition, explaining: “I think there are so many events that happen in track and field and if you think about it, the classic venue to go to for the Olympics is the Olympic Stadium. There’s just something romantic about that. That’s the classic view people have and I think that’s part of it.

“I think that (athletics) was probably one of the most covered (sports) – at the early Olympics track and field is what they covered which is why you see a lot of it, especially at the beginning, and it’s some of the most popular.”

Fans not able to visit the exhibition in Lausanne in person can also get involved via an interactive documentary available at

» Look out for a more in-depth feature on The Olympic Museum and the new exhibition in a future edition of Athletics Weekly magazine