I’m sitting in a white, bullet-shaped pod hurtling down an ice track at what seems like a million miles an hour. I always thought bobsleigh was one of the scariest winter sports, but now that I’m zipping along, barely steering and feeling a spine-tingling adrenaline surge, I realize it’s much harder than I imagined.
I’ve already crashed a couple of times, of course. But luckily, this is a state-of-the-art simulator ride, so it’s only my pride that’s being dented. And despite my lack of ability, I’m having a great time. In fact, I can't wait to try the other four simulators at this indoor attraction in the heart of the city.
The Richmond Olympic Oval was built to host speed skating events for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games. And while it has since become a busy community sports complex, it’s also home to the Olympic Experience—Canada’s first official member of the global Olympic Museums Network.
The entrance to the Richmond Olympic Oval. | Photo: Tourism Richmond
But this place is much more than a museum. Alongside its cleverly curated artifact displays, it’s lined with interactive activities that make this one of the region’s best family-friendly destinations for local and visiting sports fans.
A Stirring Start
Although it’s located on the Richmond Olympic Oval's third level, a visit to the Olympic Experience actually starts near the building’s ground floor reception desk. After buying your ticket, you’re directed to a small movie theatre a few steps away. Take a comfy seat inside and you’ll be able to catch the nine-minute film Pursuit of a Dream.
An inspiring, emotionally stirring depiction of real-life young Canadians working incredibly hard to pursue their hopes of participating in the Olympics, it packs a patriotic punch. It’s also the perfect set up for a visit to the third floor main attraction.
The Olympic Experience itself is a series of bright, interconnected rooms lined with hands-on activities and a wide array of sporting exhibits and memorabilia. And despite the Oval’s 2010 provenance, it’s not just about the Winter Olympics—although there are certainly plenty of amazing Games-related artifacts on display here.
The bobsleigh simulater at the Olympic Experience. | Photo: Tourism Richmond
That Olympics-and-more approach also covers the simulators. There are five high-tech experiences to try, including bobsleigh, ski jump, and sit-ski (a great chance to discover just how challenging Paralympic skiing can be). There are also two additional simulators: whitewater kayaking on the Chilliwack River and Formula 1 race car driving on a challenging road circuit.
The sit-ski simulator. | Photo: Richmond Olympic Experience
Interaction isn’t just about these top-notch simulators, though. Kids and adults can also shoot against virtual targets in hockey and soccer games; test their high-speed moves in a reaction timer room; and even display their skills as a sports broadcaster in a special mini TV studio.
The aim of many budding sports broadcasters, of course, is to commentate at an actual Olympic Games. And for added inspiration, the Olympic Experience is lined with a glittering array of real-life reminders of Games past. Once you’ve exhausted yourself on the simulators, these display cases invite plenty of perusing.
Discover something new about the Olympic Games. | Photo: Richmond Olympic Experience
Start with the mascot display—the 2010 Olympics arguably had some of the best mascots in Games’ history. You’ll rediscover cute little Miga and fan-favourite Quatchi (everyone loved this Chewbacca-like Sasquatch). There’s also a full-sized Sumi costume: the cool, Haida-inspired character that represented the Paralympics.
The mascot exhibit. | Photo: Richmond Olympic Experience
But that’s not all. There’s also a fascinating display on the historic evolution of sports equipment including archery bows and badminton racquets, ranging from basic gear to high-tech modern solutions. keep an eye out for unique items such as Donovan Bailey’s racing spikes, Jamie Salé’s ice skates, and Ross Rebagliati’s snowboarding gear.
Learn about the evolution of sporting equipment. | Photo: Richmond Olympic Experience
Medals and More
These direct reminders of Canadian sporting glory lead up to the attraction’s final display. Housed in the Legacy Zone, there’s a sparkling collection of Olympic medals and torches to view here—and we’re not just talking about 2010.
Discover medals from the Olympic Games of the past. | Photo: Richmond Olympic Experience
A circular display cabinet bristles with multiple torches from past Games. And the diversity of their designs is striking: the 1972 Munich torch looks like a pre Star-Wars lightsaber; the Seoul 1988 model is etched with intricate dragons; and the London 2012 torch looks a little bit like a cheese grater.
Torches from Olympics past are on display. | Photo: Richmond Olympic Experience
When you walk inside this circular display, you also find dozens of historic medals—including a full set from our own Winter Games. Large and with undulating surfaces, these individually unique medals really stand out from the rest.
If You Go
The Olympic Experience is located inside the Richmond Olympic Oval at 6111 River Road. It’s open from 10:00am to 5:00pm Thursday to Sunday as well as on holiday Mondays. Opening hours are also extended during most major school breaks.
Admission costs $20 for adults (aged 19 to 64); $16 for seniors; $13 for youth (aged 13 to 18); $5 for children (aged 6 to 12); and it’s free for those aged five and under. Tickets include simulators rides and entry to the Richmond Olympic Oval itself. Book your tickets here.