The cultural Olympiads: reviving the Pangyris

Gold, Margaret M. and Revill, George (2011). The cultural Olympiads: reviving the Pangyris. In: Gold, John R. and Gold, Margaret M. eds. Olympic Cities: City Agendas, Planning and the World's Games, 1896-2016 (2nd ed.). Planning, History and Environment Series. London: Routledge, pp. 80–107.



This chapter examines cultural dimensions for both Summer and Winter Olymic Games. It recognises that while key Olympic rituals and the spectacle of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies are familiar from global media coverage, the other cultural components of the Games are much less well known. Indeed, even in the academic literature, the epithets ‘neglected’ or ‘forgotten’ are often used in relation to the cultural programme. After briefly discussing the nature of the classical heritage, this chapter explores why the founders of the modern Olympic movement gave prominence to the arts and how this was expressed in the Games between 1912 and 1948, with Olympic cities staging art competitions in music, literature, painting, sculpture and architecture. Thereafter, as subsequent sections show, the cultural dimension has had a chequered history. The abandonment of artistic competitions in favour of exhibitions took place after 1948, with subsequent reinterpretations of the nature and duration of the associated festivals. The Olympic Charter limits the sporting festival to 16 days, but the only stipulation about the cultural festival is that it must run while the Olympic Village is open (IOC, 2004b, 80) – there are no specific limits about its maximum duration. This has permitted the Olympic Arts Festival to grow in scale, so that since 1992 the summer hosts have planned four-year Cultural Olympiads, with the cultural elements of the Olympics starting to mesh with the wider agendas that interest cities and governments. These agendas suggest a legacy for cultural tourism, identity building or culture-based urban regeneration strategies.

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