Art and the Olympics

By: Kerriann Quinn

Attending the Olympic Games has been a goal for athletes from around the world. The international tradition is a way for countries to showcase their most talented competitors and set out for the ultimate prize, winning the gold. Today's Olympics are very extravagant and well-known because of the visuals portrayed at both the opening and closing ceremonies. For example, the Olympic ceremony includes traditions such as the opening torch relay and the presentation of the Olympic flag. Contestants train their whole lives to be an Olympic champion. Each participant's mission is to give it their all on behalf of themselves, their team and their country. The victorious winner from each event will be forever noticed in history as possibly the best in the world and rewarded with gold, silver or bronze medal.

Ancient Olympics

The Olympic Games is an international sporting competition that originated in ancient Greece. The tournament dates back to 776 BC but many historians believe that regional competition existed long before then. The early games were held at Mount Olympia on the eastern coast of the Peloponnesian Peninsula. Competitors did not only participate in the games to showcase their strength and masculinity but also to honor the Greek god Zeus, the most powerful god in the Greek religion (2). Contrary to today’s modern Olympics, ancient Olympics had only one event, a race on foot of about 183m (200yd). The first recorded winner of the early games was a cook by the name of Coroebus of Elis (1). His prize as the victorious competitor of the 200yd dash was an olive branch(5). According to the records, a longer race was added every four years when the next event took place. Things began to change in the 18th Olympiad when Sparta joined in on the competitions. Wrestling, jumping, and spear throwing became part of the Olympic festival (7). The games continued to grow and on the 23rd Olympiad boxing was added. Soon after, chariot racing became a popular event and the Olympics was extended over a five day period. The popularity of the chariot event and the involvement of royalty in the games caused competitors to forget the values of the Olympics. Winners started to crave the glorification and soon they were being honored as if they were gods. By 394 AD the games were ended by Theodosius I, a roman emperor who believed that the games had pagan connections. The first modern Olympics began in the summer of 1896 and was held in Athens, Greece. The games attracted 241 participants from 14 different nations. The Olympic games have grown tremendously since the first festival in 776 BC. Today mostly all nations send athletes to the Olympics to represent their country and showcase the pride of their nation.

History of the Torch Relay

external image 9bM4s2fAu-DOi22M8YjxAy5Qy8rPfawsK9QGC2NfKa_4-rdPOKUeXqV3e5ngLfiLlGiXo38ZaYpclre8ayigtxp2rOy0I7ANbCtsoJ8fOh72sSDDZNDiVZJyjmGk2ZO7nhu7_KMgThe Olympic torch relay is a flame that travels in a relay from Greece to the site of the Olympic games. When the flame arrives at the designated stadium the ceremonial lighting of the cauldron begins and marks the start of the games. Being a torch bearer is a great honor usually given to local residents who are active in their community such as celebrities or athletes. external image 3nljRtOpL8divkKhlkuUUUbGGPr6m5q5w4A7d2gKFaFZRqfmkeSYN9pysIf-Fpq-rlZbO5YqOY946AVg6rRloQnYp7QWnogiYopdQrcYa_9JfseMeKK1pBgVyugPQmakI1hfxXWAThe flame travels by foot within cities and by plane between cities.The first relay was introduced by Carl Diem, head organizer of the Berlin games,during the 1936 Summer Olympics. The flame started in Greece and went through Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Germany. The torch is lit the entire route by using gas fuel. The flame is specially made to resist harsh weather such as rain and wind. Historians believe that Adolf Hitler, the chancellor of Nazi Germany, pushed the torch relay to connect Berlin with the gods of ancient Greece. Hitler thought the connection would strengthen his influence on the outside world. The 1936 Berlin torch was 70 cm in total and made of steel. The torch was engraved with a German eagle which represented Nazi Germany regime.(6)

The Olympic Rings

The Olympic rings consist of five interlocking rings shaded blue, yellow, black, green and red on a white flag (3). The rings were originally designed in 1912 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, co-founder of the modern Olympic Games. The five rings were meant to represent the five participating continents, Africa, Asia, America, Australia, and Europe. The colors of the rings and the white background stand for every competing nations flag. These interlocking rings were first displayed at the 1920 summer Olympics in Belgium. The flag was meant to be passed onto the new host city after every game. At the end of the first Belgium games the flag was lost and a new one was made for the 1924 summer Olympics held in Paris.This pattern continued until the 1952 winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway. After the Oslo Olympics it was decided that a separate flag needed to be made for the winter Olympics. The ring’s display comes with very strict rules. For example, the rings may not be elongated, rotated, outlined or portrayed with any special effects. The rings must also be displayed with the original colors and must be on a white background, but a black background with a white frame is allowed.(8)

The five interlocking rings
The five interlocking rings
The Olympic Medals
The first modern Olympic games held in Athens, Greece in 1896 . This is where the first modern Olympic champion was crowned with an olive wreath and awarded a silver medal for his success. His name was James B Connolly and he was from Massachusetts. He won the silver medal in the triple jump, a track and field event. In the same Olympics Connolly then went on to win second in the high jump and third in the long jump. The iconic Gold, silver and bronze medals were not presented to the first, second and third place finishers until the 1904 Olympic games in st Louis. Medals were originally designed to be pinned to the champion's chest . Each medal had a ribbon that would connect it to the pin. It was not until 1960 during the games in Rome that the medals were placed around the winners necks. Each game would have a unique engraving on the medal to commemorate and honor the champion. For example, the 1928 games held in Amsterdam had a particularly appealing medal. On one side, the traditional goddess of victory stood holding a palm in her right hand and a crown in her left hand. On the other side, a victorious Olympian was portrayed taking in the praise from the crowd (4). The Olympic medals have been a symbol of success since the start of this tradition. Many athletes give up their lives to dedicate themselves to their desired event and to win one of these honorable prizes.

The front of the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic medal.
The front of the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic medal.
The back of the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic medal.
The back of the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic medal.

The torch of the opening ceremony, the Olympic rings and the medals of the closing ceremony are all examples of art in modern Olympic Games. Participating countries pride themselves in creating the most memorable visuals in this world-wide competition. The games bring the world unity and peace through art that portrays a common goal for all nations.

works cited

(1)Hiskey, Daven. "The Origin of the Olympic Games." Today I Found Out. N.p., 10 Aug. 2012. Web. 6 June 2017.

(2) Staff. "The Olympic Games." A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 06 June 2017.

(3)"Olympic Symbols." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 01 June 2017. Web. 06 June 2017.

(4)"Olympic Medals." N.p., 2017. Web. 6 June 2017.

(5)"The Ancient Olympics." The Ancient Olympics. Tufts University, 13 Aug. 2004. Web. 6 June 2017.

(6)"The Olympic Torch Relay." International Olympic Committee. N.p., 23 May 2017. Web. 06 June 2017.

(7)"The Penn Museum." Penn Museum. N.p., 2017. Web. 07 June 2017.

(8)"100 Years of the Olympic Flag." N.p., 16 June 2014. Web. 6 June 2017.