Olympic Medals Awarded for Art from 1912 to 1948

March 28, 2013 at 2:00 am 1 comment

By Chad Upton | Editor

The modern Olympics are all about athletics, but from 1912 to 1948 they also included competitions in art and science.


The main categories were as follows:

  • Architecture
  • Literature
  • Music
  • Painting
  • Sculpturing
  • Statistics

Some of the events included “town planning”, “Epic works” (long poems), “Drawings and water colors”, “Medals”. Yes, medals were given out for creating the best medals.

Art and science awards are an interesting concept for the Olympics even though we’re used to thinking about the Olympics as an athletic competition.

For example, if we look at the Men’s 100-meter sprint, the gold medal has demanded faster times in almost every competition. Usain Bolt won gold in 2012 with a time of 9.63. For comparison, it took 12 seconds to win the gold medal in 1896. Today, there are high school runners who can beat that time by more than a second and a half. In fact, that time would be good enough for a bronze medal in 1980.

There’s no doubting the athletic demand, but today’s runners also use the latest technology, equipment and knowledge to train and perform. That makes the Olympics a state-of-the-art competition, minus the art competition.

I say that tongue in cheek since it’s not entirely true. Although the art and science competitions were phased out after the 1948 Olympics, the tradition has not been lost — every Summer Olympics since 1948 has held an art exhibit during the games. The London Olympics 2012 Art Show featured artists from around the world. A Mexican-American from Tennessee won the first prize in Gallery One while an artist from India won the open call in Gallery Two.

Olympics aside, there are plenty of other awards for extraordinary contributions to art and science. Many of these winners make meaningful contributions to society and like our best athletes they devote entire lives to it. I wish these awards were as celebrated as our athletic awards. They might not be as fun to watch, but the achievements are equally inspiring.

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Photo: Craig Deakin (cc)

Sources: wikipedia (Olympic Art Medals), NYT

Entry filed under: History and Origins, Sports. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Ben  |  March 30, 2013 at 11:51 am

    All about athletics?!

    Seriously? It’s all about money nowadays.


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