I once organized an Olympics…in my neighborhood. Such was the Olympic fever I felt growing up. The 1972 Munich Games were the first in my memory. I was inspired to organize the neighborhood competition during the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Games. We even flew a homemade Olympic flag on the porch of our house.
It wasn’t only sport that inspired us. It was also the art associated with the games. Restaurants offered prints by LeRoy Neiman, celebrating the variety of Olympic achievement, and from various countries. (Note Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut, above). It seemed that there was also a new fanfare or theme written every year. The numerous pieces composed by John Williams continue to inspire. I still get a chill hearing Olympic Anthem – Bugler’s Dream” – composed by Leo Arnaud.
I was surprised to find an article from the Smithsonian that discusses the fact that the Arts were once Olympic events. From 1912 to 1952, there were medals awarded for painting, sculpture, architecture, literature and music. From the article:
“From 1912 to 1952, juries awarded a total of 151 medals to original works in the fine arts inspired by athletic endeavors… The 151 medals that had been awarded were officially stricken from the Olympic record, though, and currently do not count toward countries’ current medal counts.”
Apparently, one reason for the end of these events was the concentration on amateur competition after WWII. Artists were already making a living at what they did, and would inevitably use their victories to promote their work. But times have changed. I wonder what would happen if the IOC reinstated those medals and also brought the arts back into the Olympic world. Sure, there would be controversies. (Ahem, the subjective nature of figure skating, gymnastics, etc.). Sure, there would be “winners and losers.” But promoting the value of the arts would support the spirit of Olympic competition: The effort of coming together and competing. What an incredible positive statement that would be!
“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”—Olympic Creed, 1908
Copyright, 2012 Robert Baldwin