Vintage Olympic Posters, Sporting Stereotypes and unlikely heros…

Jesse OwensImage

On the left, the incredible Jesse Owens: If I were looking for someone who personified the concept of ‘sportsmanship’ I think I would have to look no further than Jesse Owens. In unbelievably difficult situations he not only performed well, but also managed a degree of grace and dignity that would be hard to imagine in our day…

On the right: A rare poster, in Russian, touting the 1960 summer Olympics in Rome. The photos on the bottom of this poster (left and right) prominently feature African American athletes interacting with athletes from the Soviet Union. A great period piece…

With the official start date of the Olympics just around the corner, and the requisite preening by all countries in anticipation of improved medal counts, we thought it was a great time to (selectively and entirely subjectively) look at some great Olympic posters, heros and moments. (I’ve decided not to focus on the absurdity of holding this truly global event in an area of the world that isn’t entirely stable, either politically or socially, but if you want to read more about that, you can go here. Cue music….


We love this poster from the 1972 Winter Games – very clean, very refined, and totally in keeping with the Japanese aesthetic and spirit …

I’m young at heart but old enough to vividly remember Eddie the Eagle. Who’s that you ask? Well, the Wikipedia entry, will give you the background, but nothing beats listening to an interview with Eddie himself. Not a fabulous sportsman, he had such a big heart that he endeared himself to one and all with his sheer determination to make it down the hill. Just look at this.


Yes, I know these are summer Olympic posters but I think they’re fab nonetheless, and they let me segue nicely to

Tanned men in small bathing suits who swim fast: Whether you believe Michael Phelps was the greatest swimmer ever (and you wouldn’t be alone), or whether you feel that Mark Spitz holds that spot, either way you have to admit that both men brought honor and glory to both themselves and their home countries. For a very long  time Spitz was known as the moustachioed man who won more gold medals than anyone else (11), until Michael Phelps took that honor, with a current total of 22. Now that’s a lot of gold!


There will no doubt be endless compilations of the best ever Olympic moments (like this one)  in the days and weeks to come, and the hype and hoopla will only be outdone by the vast amounts of money spent and vodka poured in Sochi. But for me, the smaller stories like those of the Eddie the Eagle or the Jamaican Bobsled team, are the stories that warm my heart the most. To me, they represent pure desire, sheer determination, and unwavering drive to be present, to work hard, and to make themselves and those around them proud. I’ll be looking for stories like those when I tune in, and I’m sure I won’t be disappointed. Canadians, of course, will be working hard for goals and golds, on the ice, on the slopes, and … in the curling rink. Now there’s a sport I really don’t understand, but if you want to learn more about it, in anticipation of watching men frantically sweeping ice so clear the path for a giant stone, look here. I’m told it’s harder than it looks, and I believe it, but if given the choice between watching curling or watching Michael Phelps, I gotta say, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment…


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