When Art Was An Olympic Event

Posted

Great athleticism can be seen as a form of art, but can art itself be regarded as a sporting event ?  Maybe not with strength and endurance, but with style and beauty. 

Between 1912 and 1948 seven Olympiads incorporated art into their programs of competition with the full mix of gold, silver and bronze awards.  To qualify, artists had to be amateurs, the works had to be original, and the themes had to be centered around sports. 

Five major art categories were selected for competition: architecture, painting, sculpture, literature and music.  A total of 1,817 artists from 51 countries participated and 147 medals were distributed. 

Germany led the nations in the quadrennial extravaganzas with the highest medal count at 24.  The country also played host to the 1936 Olympics when Werner March won gold for designing the Berlin Reich Sports Stadium where the games took place.

That venue became a propaganda showcase for the Nazis and was later  destroyed by aerial bombardments in WWII. 

The U.S. ranked fourth in the art contests with only 9 medals, mostly earned at the 1932 games in Los Angeles.  American Mahonri Young won gold in sculpture with his work "The Knockdown" (shown above). 

John Russell Pope, the architect behind the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C., won silver in architecture for designing one of the largest indoor athletic facilities in the world, the Payne Whitney Gymnasium at Yale University.  

Some participants even emerged as dual medalists in sports & arts. The Stockholm games in 1912 saw U.S. citizen Walter Winans earn silver in marksmanship and gold in sculpture. 

The most successful Olympic artist was Luxembourg native Jean Jacoby, who took  gold in 1924 for his painting "Etude de Sport", and another gold in 1928 for his drawing "Rugby". 

However, over time these contests became controversial and were discontinued since the artists were deemed professionals and not amateurs like their fellow athletes.  Some of the works were even sold while on display, essentially violating the Olympic charter and purity of the games.  

Art as a form of Olympic competition was eventually relegated to the heaps of sports history. The medals were stripped from the official tally held by the IOC and nullified from each country's roster of athletic achievements.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment

Shop For Our Books & DVD's

WEEKLY SPORTS PUZZLE

View larger Puzzle archive


THIS WEEK

10 years ago

BASEBALL July 13, 2010  The NL beat the AL 3-1 in the All-Stars exhibition game. Held at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in California, the game was preceded with a short memorial honoring George Steinbrenner who had died early that morning. The AL fielded the likes of Derek Jeter (SS-Yankees), Ichiro Suzuki (OF-Mariners) and Mariano Rivera (P-Yankees), while the AL brought out David Wright (3B-Mets), Albert Pujols (1B-Cardinals) and Roy Halladay (P-Phillies).

20 years ago

SOCCER July 2, 2000  France defeats Italy 2-1 at the UEFA European Championship. It was their 2nd title at the quadrennial extravaganza, which has been held since 1960 to determine the continent’s best national team; Germany and Spain are tied at the top with 3 wins each. One of the most exciting finals in tournament history, France equalized a goal in the closing minute of official time to send the game into overtime and then land a ‘golden goal’ in sudden death.

30 years ago

TENNIS July 7, 1990  Martina Navratilova claims a record 9th Wimbledon singles title after defeating her American opponent, Zina Garrison, 6-4, 6-1. It was Navratilova’s last career grand slam singles after compiling 17 victories since her first one at Wimbledon in 1978. Considered one of the greatest female athletes in the game, the Czech-born and U.S.-naturalized tennis star was ranked No. 1 in singles for a total of 332 weeks, and No. 1 in doubles for a total 237 weeks.

40 years ago

BOXING July 7, 1980  Larry Holmes knocks out Scott LeDoux in the 7th round to retain his WBC Heavyweight title. It was the 35th professional and undefeated bout for the Georgia native who swung one of the fiercest left jabs in boxing history. Holmes battled the greatest heavyweights of his era and he would defeat Muhammad Ali in the 10th round just 3 months after his encounter with LeDoux. The “Easton Assassin” retired in 2002 after posting a career record of 75-69-6.