Did you know they used to give out Olympic medals for art? It’s true! From 1912 to 1948 the IOC awarded officials medals for painting, sculpture, architecture, literature and music. There was a rule that all submissions had to be sports themed, so a lot of the pieces have titles like “Ode to Sport” (a literature entry) and “Olympic Triumphal March” (music). Judging from the surviving artworks, a lot of this art wasn’t very good, but there’s still something absurd and fascinating about the fact that for nearly forty years you could win a gold medal for your epic poetry.
So, last week, I spoke to a man who, from what I can tell, has written the only book about this odd chapter in Olympic history. His name is Richard Stanton and his book is called The Forgotten Olympic Art Competitions.
To write his book Richard travelled to the IOC archives in Switzerland and went through hundreds of hand written letters from olympic officials in order to piece the story together. Richard was nice enough to talk with me over the phone about his book and Olympic art.
Corner (left), and Rugby (right) by Jean Jacoby. Rugby won gold at the 1928 games in Amsterdam.
Ode to Sport won gold in the Literature category in 1912
Walter Winans An American Trotter. Gold medal in the “Sculpture” category at the first Olympic Art Competitions in 1912 in Stockholm
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