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A fascinating geographical, temporal, cultural and artistic journey through the history of the Look of the Games.

Go ahead – you’re in the driving seat!

Paris 1900: A definite Olympic Look
Paris 1900

Paris 1900: A definite Olympic Look

Cave
Cave

1900: Paris basks in the glow of the World’s Fair

More than 50 million visitors flocked to see all the novelties and attractions on show: pavilions for each of the invited countries, films by the Lumière brothers, a big wheel, and technological and architectural triumphs such as the Eiffel Tower, the Petit and Grand Palais, the Palace of Electricity, the Château d’eau, the first metro line, and more.

"If there was a place in the world that felt indifferent about the Olympic Games, Paris was the first."

(Pierre de Coubertin, Olympic Memoirs, 1931)

FASHION AND THE BELLE EPOQUE

Women wore tight-fitting corsets, flared, trained skirts and high collars, with an emphasis on flowing lines, ample curves, frills and lace, in keeping with the Art Nouveau style.

Gentlemen’s clothing was much more understated, with dark colours.

During this prosperous, relatively frivolous period, fashion fluctuated between lavishness and a desire for a more casual style.

UOP: Unidentified Olympic Poster

After Athens in 1896, it was Paris that hosted the second edition of the Olympic Games. But you wouldn’t have realised! There was no trace of the rings or the word “Olympic”.

UOP: Unidentified Olympic Programmes

No benefits of featuring Olympic branding on the sports programmes? The Olympic status of the events was so lacking in prevalence that some athletes didn’t event know they were competing at the Games!

And yet 

A parade of gymnasts was organised in the Vincennes velodrome; a gold plaquette was given to the event winners, featuring the Goddess of Victory on the front and a victorious athlete brandishing an olive branch on the back.

So many symbols that we can link to the Games, but which were presented here as part of the decor of the World’s Fair buildings, just like the figures on the World’s Fair commemorative plaquette.

The Olympic Games were held as part of – and eclipsed by – the great event of the turn of the century.

Antwerp 1920: A definite Olympic Look
Antwerp 1920

Antwerp 1920: A definite Olympic Look

A PERIOD OF PEACE AND RECONSTRUCTION

In 1919, a series of peace treaties brought the First World War to an end and redefined geographical and political borders.

The countries of the world had paid a heavy price during the conflict, and now yearned to live in peace: “The war to end all wars / Never again.”

THE ROARING TWENTIES

A period of resurgence, in which pleasure and exuberance became a way of life.

These were the years of Josephine Baker, Art Deco, the creations of Coco Chanel and the advent of jazz, radio, cinema, electrical appliances and more.

ART DECO STYLE

“A movement born in the Champagne of a newfound peace”, in the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby.

A movement that sought to express, through all forms of art (interior design, architecture, fashion, graphic design, etc.), the need for levity and elegance after such a dark period of history.

THE FIVE RINGS SEEN FOR THE FIRST TIME AT THE GAMES

The rings were displayed on a white flag flown in the Olympic Stadium.

This was the first public appearance of the Olympic symbol, designed in 1913 by Pierre de Coubertin.

The Olympic visual identity was born, and grew over time. Today, the symbol is one of the most well-known and widely recognised in the world!

A SYMBOL OF UNION AND UNIVERSALITY

No Olympic rings on the poster for the Antwerp Games, but bunting made of national flags to represent the coming together of peoples, just like the symbol of the interlacing rings.

THE RINGS DISPLAYED ON ALL DOCUMENTS

The Olympic symbol, the visual ambassador of Olympism, was universally adopted

St Moritz 1928: A winter Look
St Moritz 1928

St Moritz 1928: A winter Look

ONE OF THE OLDEST WINTER SPORTS RESORTS

A mountain village rising up the slope above a lake at an altitude of 1,856 metres, in the Engadin valley in the canton of Graubünden, in south-eastern Switzerland.

SWISS TOURISM POSTERS: WORKS OF ART

The dominant central subject is the place being advertised. It is drawn with simple strokes and swathes of warm colours.

The idea is to illustrate the beauty of a place with a symbolic image drawn in close-up.

The aim is to offer an idyllic, timeless vision of the places illustrated. A combination of aesthetics and economics!

PROMOTING THE GAMES – AND THE HOST REGION!

By using a visual language similar to that of tourism posters, St Moritz sought to take advantage of the Games to promote the country, the region, and the simple beauty of the surroundings, an ideal setting for winter sports.

ATTRACTIVE COMBINATION OF WINTER AND THE ANCIENT ORIGIN OF THE GAMES

By combining typical winter symbols and Ancient Greece on the medal, St Moritz brought the Swiss Alps and Mount Olympus together, marking the start of a separate Winter Games iconography.

Amsterdam 1928: A De Stijl Look
Amsterdam 1928

Amsterdam 1928: A De Stijl Look

AN OBVIOUS CHOICE

Each country has its own special features that make it immediately identifiable: in the Netherlands, it is the windmills, which are clearly visible on the flat expanses of land. Their main function was to drive the pumps that drained the polders, so that the land could be cultivated once it had dried out.

DE STIJL: A TERM WITH A VERY DUTCH SOUND

It refers to an artistic trend used by a small group of architects and painters, and applied in the fields of painting and sculpture, but also architecture, decoration, furnishings and typography. It was a major artistic movement in the 20th century, considered as Holland’s most important contribution to modern art.

ORANGE AND STYLISH

In the land of the Prince of Orange, everything is orange…

In De Stijl’s homeland, the colours are applied in solid blocks, with clean and geometric lines…

Aren’t these great ingredients to establish a strong and all-embracing visual identity?

A WINDMILL YES, BUT A STYLISED ONE!

Jan Wils, one of the founders of the De Stijl movement, designed the tower that would house the Olympic flame.

It was inspired by the windmill, a typical symbol of the country; but, being avant-garde, its lines were clean and geometric.

And it was even orange as it was built in brick!

We’ve therefore come full circle…

Rome 1960: Long live Ancient Rome!
Rome 1960

Rome 1960: Long live Ancient Rome!

“URBS AETERNA” – THE ETERNAL CITY

The city founded, according to legend, by the twin demi-gods Romulus and Remus, who were suckled by a she-wolf. The city of Empire, Christianity, the Renaissance and the Vatican… A fabulous story engraved for ever in the architectural, cultural and artistic patrimony of Rome.

La dolce vita

A reflection of Italian society during the post-war economic miracle: glamour, cinema, fashion, paparazzi, beautiful cars, motorbikes, the Vespa, television, entertainment, love, glory and beauty.

THE ANCIENT CITY AS THE BACKDROP TO THE GAMES

A VERY ROMAN VISUAL IDENTITY

Ancient Greece was the birthplace of the Olympic Games, but Rome’s past is just as glorious! Proud of its grandeur, the city gave it pride of place on everything, everywhere!

Tokyo 1964 : A universal language
Tokyo 1964

Tokyo 1964 : A universal language

THE LAND OF THE RISING SUN

This name was attributed to Japan because it was considered the easternmost country in the world, and because the characters that make up the word Japan in Japanese literally mean “the sun’s origin”.

The symbol of a red sun is also displayed in the centre of the national flag.

SPECTACULAR ECONOMIC RECOVERY

The capital managed to rise up from the ashes of war, and an incredible economic boom was not far away.

Japan’s first high-speed train line, the Shinkansen Tōkaidō, was opened in 1964, connecting Tokyo and Osaka.

INTERNATIONAL TYPOGRAPHIC OR SWISS STYLE

Inspired by the New Objectivity movement, this style sought to achieve an absolute and universal variety of graphic design, integrating all information within a functional typeface.

The style is known for its simple, visually effective typography, with “Helvetica” being one of the most widely recognised forms.

AN IMAGE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

With the Olympic Games, Japan needed to speak to a global audience.

Looking for a way to transcend language – given the sui generis nature of the Japanese alphabet – Japanese graphic designers came up with an ingenious graphical system that was unique, clear and modern: pictograms!

Tokyo 1964 proved to be something of a milestone, as each Games edition since then has given rise to its own pictograms.

JAPAN’S IMAGE RESTORED

This was the first time that Asia had hosted the Games, and they provided the perfect opportunity to showcase the new Japan.

This was achieved thanks to a strong visual identity that was pure and eloquent, combining the red disc with the Olympic rings and embracing the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect.

THE POSTERS

Mexico 1968 : The first global Look
Mexico 1968

Mexico 1968 : The first global Look

A CULTURAL HERITAGE DATING BACK THOUSANDS OF YEARS

Thousands of years before Christ, in fact.

The country’s unique culture has been forged by the very different stages of its long, rich history: the heritage of the pre-Hispanic civilisations, European colonisation and the war of independence.

HUICHOL FOLK ART

Historically, Huichol art was a sacred, solemn form of art steeped in religion. Traditionally, works consisted of cave paintings, stone sculptures or yarn paintings, and were given as offerings to the gods.

Bursting with bright colours and often featuring “naïve” and enigmatic images, this type of artwork was produced by the indigenous Huichol people of the Sierra Madre in the central-eastern part of Mexico.

In the 1960s, Huichol art gradually became more of a craft, and lost its spiritual dimension.

OPTICAL ART - OP ART

This term, which appeared for the first time in a Time magazine article in 1964, describes a style of visual art that makes use of optical illusions.

Op Art works are essentially abstract – they give the impression of movement and flashing or vibrating patterns.

They have a destabilising effect on the viewer, producing something between pleasure and displeasure and creating a dizzying sensation similar to that caused by mild intoxication.

COURRÈGES – STYLE IN VOGUE IN THE SIXTIES

André Courrèges: French fashion designer; promoter of the mini-skirt worn with go-go boots, and trapeze dresses that freed the hips and revealed the legs above the knee; and avant-garde creator, with his futuristic silhouettes.

He was nicknamed the “Le Corbusier of fashion” due to his functional style, which made use of geometric forms, and to the prevalence of white.

A SHOCKWAVE

Born from the imagination of Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, the Mexico City 1968 Games emblem reflected the fashion of the time: hippy psychedelia.

The figure 68 was combined with the five rings to set off infinitely rippling waves: the result is an eye-bending design.

EDUARDO’S TABLA

WARM COLOURS

The colour palette of the visual identity of the Games in Mexico City featured 19 intense shades and a deep black, a reflection of what could be seen and experienced in the country itself!

An attractive and effective range for all forms of communication, whether pictograms, sports posters, tickets or hostess dresses.

A CLEVER FRIEZE OF POSTERS

When placed together, the posters create a frieze of lines and curves stretching out seemingly for ever!

And each sport has its own colour, its own pictogram, the logo and the rings: this has to be the Mexico City 1968 Games!

A WOMAN’S TOUCH

LARGER THAN LIFE

Balloons and papier-mâché figures spread the look and spirit of the Games in the capital.

A FIGURE-HUGGING LOOK

The visual identity even featured on clothing, with short, fitted dresses: very Courrèges, very sixties.

AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING LOOK!

All lines and rounded shapes, applied to the main object, the Olympic torch, but also to the souvenir items visitors took home with them from the Games.

Munich 1972: An all-embracing Look
Munich 1972

Munich 1972: An all-embracing Look

Tradition and modernity

Munich: a city of folk garments/dances and local traditions – with its Lederhosen, Dirndl, Schuhplattler and Oktoberfest – and also the modern, industrial home of automobile manufacturer BMW.

The size of a capital, the charm of a small town

Munich, the Bavarian capital with over one million inhabitants; and Munich, the city with a relaxed, almost Mediterranean way of life.

The daring decade

A heady mixture of psychedelic designs, colours and materials; rounded objects and low furniture to create a cocoon feel: a wave of colour and fun swept through the seventies!

Rigour, consistency and efficiency

From the decoration of urban areas to matchbooks, everything went together; everything followed the playful, colourful spirit inspired by Otl Aicher and his team; everything contributed to make the Munich Games a historic and instantly recognisable edition.

OTL AICHER

“The setting for the Games plays a decisive part in their success.”

A rainbow palette

The idea was to give a new image of Munich and Germany, totally different from that of the 1936 Games in Berlin.

So fresh bright colours inspired by the Bavarian countryside and the spirit of the 1970s, but no red, black or gold.

A rainbow sausage dog

The Bavarian touch, with the most popular dog in Bavaria, and the six “Olympic 72” colours: corporate through and through!

ELENA WINSCHERMANN

« A mascot compatible with the entire design »

« Radiant munich »

This is the message expressed by the emblem with its crown of rays of light, reflecting the spirit of the Games in Munich: fresh, generous, bright.

« Geometric man »

A silhouette made up of simple circles and straight lines, adapted to illustrate 21 sports. A precise and pared-down process to create a universal language that everyone can understand.

Gerhard Joksch’s abstract thinking

Los Angeles 1984: Confetti over the city
Los Angeles 1984

Los Angeles 1984: Confetti over the city

LOS ANGELES: LA to its friends

Hollywood Boulevard, Universal Studios, Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Rodeo Drive, Venice Beach, Highway 1… even if you’ve never been, everyone knows LA!

THE NEO-DESIGN OF THE MEMPHIS GROUP (MILAN)

The group developed offbeat, abstract and colourful furniture and objects to combat the banality of everyday life.

“LOOK OF THE GAMES”

Los Angeles 1984 saw the first appearance of this term, which refers to the visual identity of the Games. It has been part of the Olympic vocabulary ever since.

The Look of the 1984 Los Angeles Games had a real West Coast flavour, with “intuitive” colours and an exuberant, typically Pacific freshness, in keeping with the spirit of 1980s festivals.

URBAN BRANDING

The décor was bursting with colour, stars and confetti were used to mark out the Olympic venues, and there was no lavish spending. Mission accomplished!

THE SPIRIT OF THE GAMES ON SHOW IN THE CITY

THE STARS: A FITTING SYMBOL

The stars paid tribute to America, Hollywood, the excellence of the athletes and the dynamism of the Olympic Games!

Lillehammer 1994: Nature and tradition
Lillehammer 1994

Lillehammer 1994: Nature and tradition

WINTER AS A STYLE OF LIFE

Norway - a country located close to the Arctic Circle, where the harsh climate has shaped man and nature alike since time immemorial.

A COMBINATION OF SNOW, ICE AND COLD

When looked at through a magnifying glass, snow – omnipresent in the landscape of Europe’s most northerly country – is transformed into a delicate composition of star-shaped crystals.

OLYMPIC DESIGN MADE IN LILLEHAMMER

A threefold design concept: originality and Norwegian character, human contact, and contact between man and nature. Focused on respect for the environment, these were named the “White-Green Games by President Samaranch.

ORIGINALITY AND AUTHENTICITY

A national treasure inspired the pictograms: a rock drawing discovered on an island in the north of Norway, the oldest-known image of a person on skis, dating from more than 4,000 years ago!

Athens 2004: A patrimonial Look
Athens 2004

Athens 2004: A patrimonial Look

ONE OF THE WORLD’S OLDEST CITIES

From the Parthenon to the Acropolis, with the ancient Agora, the Hill of the Muses, the Panathenaic Stadium and the Temple of Zeus, there is plenty of history to experience in Athens.

A LAND…

Hospitable and generous,
with a rich cuisine,
enchanting landscapes,
and millennia-old art and culture.

« WELCOME HOME »

This was the slogan of the Athens 2004 Games as, indeed, the Games returned to their country of birth, 108 years after the first Games of the modern era were held in Athens in 1896.

SUPPLE, FLUID AND INSPIRED BY ANTIQUITY

Pictograms are an integral part of the visual identity of the Games. They convey a universal language and focus on the cultural and creative spirit of the host country.

UNIVERSAL SYMBOL

The olive-wreath crown was the reward for the winners at the Olympic Games of Antiquity: it bestowed glory and divine protection. The olive branch is also a symbol of peace: thus, Greek culture and the universal values of the Games came together.

BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN TWO ERAS

The mascots, a brother and sister, represented the link between Ancient Greece and the Olympic Games of the modern era.

London 2012: An edgy Look
London 2012

London 2012: An edgy Look

A CITY LIKE NO OTHER

50 nationalities, 300 different languages, home of the avant-garde, the centre of high finance, miles and pounds, steering wheel on the right, cars driving on the left, the only city to have hosted the Games three times (1908, 1948 and 2012)...

The capital city of the islands that make up the United Kingdom certainly knows how to cultivate its originality.

NEW FORMS

A fragmented architecture, constructed and de-constructed
Paperless internet communication
Pink, punk fashion!

LINES RADIATING OUTWARDS

Structural lines determine the image’s spatial arrangement and overall balance, drawing attention to the centre.

THE FORCE OF GEOMETRY

In the interests of consistency and impact, a Look Book was published, providing specific guidelines on every aspect of the Olympic visual identity: signage, banners, city decorations, typography, etc.

About

The Olympic Museum does not house a collection, but rather an idea: Olympism.

Its mission is to showcase the historical, sporting, artistic and cultural dimensions of the Olympic world.

It does this by creating and developing themed programmes, both on-site in Lausanne and online.

 

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