Olympic Spirit. Olympic Art.


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.”

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/When-the-Olympics-Gave-Out-Medals-for-Art-163705106.html#ixzz22EI6Ddcv

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


4 thoughts on “Olympic Spirit. Olympic Art.

  1. This is a complete surprise. I’m surprised not only by the inclusion of the arts in early years, but also by the non-inclusion of those medals in official counts. I’d love to see the arts part of the events again, particularly since “amateur” has become a much more loosely-defined Olympic term.

  2. Now there’s something I didn’t know about the Olympics. from a point of view of artistry, I have always appreciated the openning music; the beauty of the Olympic bodies as they move in their sport; and the more artistic events such as gymnastics (I cannot come at the underwater upside down dancing…synchronized swimming…at all….it’s just ludicrous to me, though I don’t deny it requires athleticism…but the idea of 4 plus legs waving in the air at those in the arena…ahem)…artistic Olympics I don’t see why not I just wonder if there are not enough accolades and awards for the Arts???? Having said that, why these athletes earn the money they do when brilliant minds don’t is a whole other question… Thks

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