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Speed Museum exhibit of professor’s collection brings Olympics to Louisville

by Brandy Warren, communications and marketing last modified Jul 26, 2012 06:58 PM

While the 2012 Olympic Games kick off Friday in London, an exhibition of Olympics past will be in Louisville.

Speed Museum exhibit of professor’s collection brings Olympics to Louisville

A 1948 London Olympics poster is among the exhibit items.

The Speed Art Museum is hosting “Going for the Gold: Selections from the Kebric Olympic Collection,” an exhibit of Olympic memorabilia from the private collection of Robert Kebric, professor of ancient Greek and Roman history and of the Olympic Games at the University of Louisville.

Kebric has taught a course on the ancient and modern Olympics for 25 years and is offering the collection as a way to allow Louisvillians to experience and celebrate the games from afar.

The exhibit includes posters from the games in Berlin (1936), Rome (1960), Munich (1972) and Atlanta (1996) and torches from Mexico City (1968), Sydney (2000) and Moscow (1980).

The Moscow torch is one of the most significant that he has acquired because as the “number one torch,” it was the first torch – lit at Olympia, Greece, to begin the relay to Moscow.

“It’s pretty special,” he said.

Other items in the collection are reminders of some of the significant historic Olympics events. The 2000 Sydney Games’ torch, for instance, is a reminder of the gold-medal performance by sprinter Cathy Freeman, an Australian Aborigine, in the women’s 400 meters.

“Cathy Freeman won and the whole stadium with 110,000 people just went bananas,” said Kebric, who attended those Games. “It was a historic moment in Australian history. It wasn’t just an athletic event; it was the first time the Australians had something in common. It was unifying for them. It was a great sports moment for me, also. “

Kebric and the Speed Art Museum recently received a letter from the Wenlock Olympian Society in England, congratulating them on the exhibit. The society, founded in 1850, by William Penny Brookes, held the first revival of the Olympic Games in 1850 and served as the inspiration for the modern Olympic movement. The 2012 London Games’ mascot — Wenlock — commemorates Brookes' efforts.

For much of the time the exhibit is open, Kebric will be at the London Olympics — his seventh. He’ll also participate in an Olympics-related conference at Oxford University, present a paper on the Olympics at an international conference at the University of London and complete research on another project while in England.

The exhibit is open until Aug. 26 and is included in museum admission. UofL faculty, staff and students have free admission to the Speed.

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