The Cultural Olympiad, art and the Olympic Games / by Beatriz Garcia

Garcia, Beatriz

Edited by The Olympic Studies Centre - 2024

The notion that the Olympic Games should complement the showcasing of elite sports competitions with a programme of arts and culture was central to the vision of Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Movement. It is a principle inspired by Coubertin’s interpretation of the Ancient Greek Games tradition, which involved the showcasing of human excellence in a variety of forms, from athletics to music and poetry. However, the Olympic cultural programme or ‘Cultural Olympiad’ has a mixed history and is one of the least visible components within the Olympic Games hosting process. This article starts with a historical overview of Olympic arts and culture programmes, from their original presentation in the form of Olympic art competitions to their latest incarnation as four-year Cultural Olympiads and its increased prominence at the Winter Games. The article then discusses key thematic trends and priority objectives over time, followed by an outline of their varied delivery formats. The article reflects on ongoing challenges for the Cultural Olympiad, in particular, the impact of Olympic branding guidelines and funding structures, which have affected the visibility and recognition of cultural initiatives at Games time. It ends by touching on the new cultural frameworks emerging in the aftermath of the IOC’s “Olympic Agenda 2020” strategic roadmap and the opportunities this may bring for stronger associations between Olympic sport and art programming.

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