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Olympic poetry

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145922.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 8:24 am Reply with quote

Andy Croft, writing in the Morning Star 20 Dec 06, says “As late as 1948, the modern Olympics included medals for poetry.”

I’ve been unable to find anything else on this; anybody got anything?

145948.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 8:53 am Reply with quote

I can't find that either, but 1948 was the year of this bit of multi-talented show-offery:

Concert pianist Micheline Ostermeyer of France won both the shot put and the discus throw.

Official Olympic website

145955.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 9:01 am Reply with quote

The official website has a list of past sports:

Power boating
Jeu de paume
Pelote basque
Tug of war
Water skiing

I don't know if it's exhaustive. It seems to be claiming so, though in the back of my mind, I thought one of the early olympics had "rope climbing" as an event.

145958.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 9:05 am Reply with quote

Though we may be on to something:

It's mentioned in this debate.


When de Coubertin set the marker for the games in 1896, it was for sport and arts. There were gold medals for poetry and music.

145967.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 9:13 am Reply with quote

Ha ha, found it.

de Coubertin himself won the poetry prize for his "ode de sport" in 1912.

145973.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 9:18 am Reply with quote


146054.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 11:41 am Reply with quote

Q: Why was Rosamund Fletcher's bronze medal in the 1948 Olympics a great Relief?

Not really a question - just a stupid pun.

146058.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 11:47 am Reply with quote

How disappointing to note in James's source that the Germans won the most 'artistic' Olympic medals over the years.

146070.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 12:04 pm Reply with quote

More info on Olympic arts, this time from the Australian Financial Review, 17 July 1988, author Debra Good. (Not available on t'internet).


After launching the modern sporting Olympics in Athens in 1896, Coubertin convened a Consultative Conference on Art, Letters and Sport in Paris in the spring of 1906 with the express aim of officially adding fine arts competitions in architecture, sculpture, music, painting and literature to the Games. Entries had to be original works "directly inspired by sport" with "such contests henceforth to become an integral part of the celebration of each Olympiad". Coubertin ranked the results of this 1906 conference as second in importance only to the original 1894 conference which led to the start of the modern Olympics two years before.

The first fine arts competitions were to be held at the 1908 London Games but organisers argued there was insufficient time to include them. Then the IOC itself was forced to organise the competitions for the 1912 Stockholm Games after Swedish arts groups argued that they were too difficult to stage. Of the arts competitions at the seven Olympic Games held between 1912 and 1948, contestants won 45 gold, 52 silver and 48 bronze medals. Italy's Giovanni Pellegrini won first prize in 1912 for his painting Winter Sports, while Frenchman Paul Landowski won the sculpture gold medal with his model The Boxer at Amsterdam in 1928. Portentously, however, 22 medals were expressly withheld on the grounds that the standard of entries was not meritorious enough.

Managerial and logistical problems in staging and promoting the fine arts competitions - such as in judging between literary genres in 25 different languages - were repeatedly recognised in the official reports of the successive Olympic organising committees. But it was the question of amateurism that led the IOC to decide in 1949 to replace the arts competitions with "exhibitions". This produced a backlash among the IOC's ideological Coubertinites, led by the outspoken Greek IOC member, Angelo Bolanki, forcing the IOC to reinstate the art competitions.

However, the organisers of the 1952 Helsinki Games were not interested in staging competitions. The then IOC president, Sweden's Sigfrid Edstrom, replied that "it concerns a historical problem which Coubertin valued enormously" and set up yet another committee to examine the issue. But, before the committee's conclusions could be presented, the IOC had a new and very different president.

American Avery Brundage's long and dominating IOC presidency was characterised by his uncompromising commitment to amateurism. In 1953, he strong-armed the ideological Coubertinites, telling them: "One can be practically sure that under present conditions the winners of Olympic Fine Art medals will do everything possible to capitalise on their victories professionally. This is not beneficial to the Olympic Movement." At the same time, Brundage dismissed the quality of previous arts competitions, incorrectly claiming that "half the time the entries have been so mediocre that medals have not been awarded". Brundage instead advocated a shift to "special exhibitions" which "would ensure higher standards, eliminate any possible commercialisation, and probably attract more general interest".

Amateurism had been a birthmark of the modern Olympics; a particularly British upper-class ideal which Coubertin had enlisted to bring his grand plan to fruition. The great American athlete Jim Thorpe was stripped of his 1912 pentathlon and decathlon gold medals after the discovery that he previously had been paid for playing semi-professional baseball one summer. In both these Olympic victories, Thorpe had beaten a young Avery Brundage.

146071.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 12:07 pm Reply with quote

At least, for once, the GB medal haul was better than the US (though only by a single bronze)

I love the idea of winning a gold medal for Town Planning.

Although very strange that some people only got a silver when nobody was awarded a gold. Seems a bit insulting.

146091.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 12:43 pm Reply with quote

Although very strange that some people only got a silver when nobody was awarded a gold. Seems a bit insulting.

Their entries weren't considered good enough.

146127.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 2:34 pm Reply with quote

I think a quick preamble about de Coubertin with the question, "for what did he win an olympic medal". Heavy on the forfeits, then talk about the ridiculous disciplines like town planning.

Works well as a GI question in my head.

146139.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 2:51 pm Reply with quote

Yep, good. Series nearly written, then.

The only thing I'd say is that the idea of an Olympic medal for town planning is one we might want to plant quite early in the show as they might make a running gag of it - so maybe best not to keep it till the Gen Ig section.

146333.  Tue Feb 13, 2007 5:28 am Reply with quote

Bunter wrote:
Their entries weren't considered good enough.

It'd be great if they did that in other events too.

"Yes, you did just win the race, but we don't think you really ran fast enough, so we're only going to give you a silver medal"

146340.  Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:03 am Reply with quote

“He’s got to get his stanzas in the right areas, John. I don’t care how many pentameters you send down, it means nothing if you don’t get your basics sorted out.”

“Fair play to the lad, Peter, he’s given literally 150% out there in the middle on the park at the end of the day, into the wind, carrying a niggle - but fair do’s, people are going to say he ode the team one and he just didn’t deliver.”

It’d be great if we could get a contemporary photo of a town planning medallist - and he was a middle-aged bloke with thin hair and specs and jowls - and we could ask “Here is a picture of Name Namely, in the year he won an Olympic medal. Which event, do you reckon?”


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