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Barcelona, 1992: 25th Olympiad

By B. John Zavrel

His Majesty, Juan Carlos I, the King of Spain, will arrive in Barcelona on July 25th to make the following pronouncement adapted from ancient Greek: "I declare open the Olympic Games of Barcelona, celebrating the 25th Olympiad of the modern era."

For the following 15 days, it is estimated, more than half the world's population--2.5 billion people in 120 countries--will be watching the Games. Television, with its electronic magic--slow motion, replays, multiple camera angles, the ability to hop instantly from one site to another miles across town--will allow its audience to see better, faster, more.

Many sports have been added since the original pentathlon of the ancient Greeks, even since the first Olympiad of the modern era. Unfortunately, an important feature of the Games up until 1948 will be missing again: the fine arts.

Beginning with the fifth Olympiad, in Stockholm in 1912, and ending with the 14th, in London in 1948, fine arts were an integral part of the competition. Represented were: architecture, sculpture, painting, literature and music.

The American artists have always done well in these competitions. For instance, Walter Winans captured first place in sculpture with his work An American Trotter in Stockholm in 1912. Ruth Miller placed second for her painting Struggle and John Russel Pope placed second in the architecture competition for his Design for Payne Whitney Gymnasium, both in the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. And in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Charles Downing Lay took second in town planning for his design for Marine Park, Brooklyn.

First place in that category and second place for architectural design went to Werner and Walter March for their design of the Sports Stadium. In music, Werner Egk took first with his orchestral composition,. In sculpture, second place went to the recently deceased Arno Breker for his work Dekathlete. This turned out to be the turning point in the life of this most significant sculptor of our time.

Ever since that time, Arno Breker maintained a close and uninterrupted relationship with the young generation, especially athletes. He has immortalized Olympic athletes such as Gustav Stührk, Eberhard Gienger, Kurt Bendlin, Peter Nocke, Walter Kusch, Jürgen Hingsen and Ulrike Meyfarth.

Physical beauty requires both discipline and achievement. This beauty is especially reflected in the physique of the athletes whom the master retained in his various drawings, graphics and sculptures. From the beauty of the perfect human body the artist can draw inspiration for his attempt to capture the likeness of the human form and the essence of the spirit and soul of his model.

To create a permanent ideal monument for mankind as a basis for a healthy future is an ideal especially inspiring for our youthful generation.
An Olympic champion wrote to me these lines: "...to the beautiful and positive things in our society doubtlessly belong sport and art. Sport has always radiated a force which binds a people together. The active sportsmen of our time should make us more conscious of this fact."
I wholeheartedly agree. And we know there is no better way to foster cooperation between sportsmen and artists than that which existed up to the 14th Olympiad in London in 1948: namely, having competitions in fine arts again incorporated into Olympic Games. The categories that should again be represented are:

ARCHITECTURE -- Town Planning, Architectural Design
PAINTING -- Paintings and Water Colors, Lithographs and Etchings
MUSIC -- Songs for Soloists to Choir, Orchestral Compositions
SCULPTURE -- Statues, Reliefs
LITERATURE -- Epic Works, Lyric Works

It would be of great significance, both for sportsmen and artists, if all future Olympiads reincorporated these 10 categories of fine arts.

Several years ago, an international committee was formed under the name ART FOR OLYMPIA (10545 Main Street, Clarence, New York 14031), to promote this idea. A number of prominent artists, as well as Olympic champions enthusiastically endorsed this initiative. Unfortunately, the bureaucrats running the Games today are more concerned with bringing us the Olympic Games every two (!!?) years, rather than being loyal to the true tradition and spirit of the Olympiad.

Copyright 1996 PROMETHEUS
Reprinted with permission

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PROMETHEUS, Internet Bulletin for Art, Politics and Science.