The Arty Modern Olympics of Yore

Being an earlier riser I’m very pleased to have access to NBC’s live feed of the Olympics even with its glitchiness (both the feedfails and the seemingly constant commercials). What is also a lot of fun is being able to go poke around for stuff while listening and dipping back and forth into the live stream. And so I came across  this Slate article and learned that there were Olympic art competitions from 1921 to 1948  in keeping with the vision of the originator of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin.

According to the Olympic Museum site (which includes the awards for “Aeronautics and Aplinism” of all things), “The art competitions were dropped from the Olympic program because of the difficulty of determining the amateur status of the artists.”  The Slate article points out that they had difficulty attracting well-known artists, but given their rules I can’t say I’m very surprised. Not to mention de Coubertin sure threw his weight around, both insisting on the art medals and winning one of the first himself submitting a poem of his own under a pseudonym. I was able to read the German version, but thought it might be fun to use google translator to give you all a taste of it in English.  So here’s the first stanza. Pretty grim, but to be fair to de Coubertin a human translator might do a bit better (though I must say I doubt it).

Ode to the Sport

O Sport, pleasure of the gods, essence of life you appeared suddenly in the middle of the clearing where gray waves the thankless labor of modern existence as the messenger of the glorious ages vanished, in this age when humanity smiled and on the summit of mountains, a glimmer of dawn arose, and rays of light dotted the ground in the gloomy forests.

Far better to check out NPR’s Poetry Games.  “From the far reaches of the globe, we’ve invited poets to compose original works celebrating athletes and athletics. Each morning we’ll introduce a new poem on Morning Edition, and then you, the audience, will judge who should win the victor’s laurel crown.”

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