The Olympic games regularly display the culture of the host country.  Artists are featured in opening ceremonies, the works of local artists are displayed throughout the Olympic Village and city, and official posters are reflective of the creativity of the host country. But most people are unaware that in the first four decades of the modern games, official medals were awarded for painting, sculpture, architecture, literature and music, along with those for the athletic competitions.

rugby by Jean JacobyThe works in those artistic competitions were inspired by sports. Richard Stanton, author of The Forgotten Olympic Art Competitions, dug through old files from the International Olympic Committee archives in Switzerland to uncover the story behind the rise and fall of the practice.

Apparently Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee and the modern Games, viewed art competitions as an essential part of his vision for the Olympics. According to Stanton, the Baron felt that a true Olympian would be someone who was a well-rounded athlete but also skilled in some aspect of the arts. The juried art competitions, according to Stanton, were abandoned in 1954 because artists were considered to be professionals, while Olympic athletes were required to be amateurs.

Creativity and artistic endeavors have a mission that goes far beyond just making music for the sake of music.
~ Herbie Hancock

Read more from the September 2016 Newsletter: Arts at the Olympics

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