Home

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.

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.

 

THE HISTORY OF THE LOOK OF FIVE OTHER GAMES:

MUNICH 1972, LOS ANGELES 1984, LILLEHAMMER 1994, ATHENS 2004 AND LONDON 2012

WILL BE UNVEILED IN SEPTEMBER!

Stay in touch; stay connected.

TOM Blog TOM Instagram TOM Facebook TOM Twitter TOM

Your device does not support the map element.