Paris - 1924, Olympic Games.
© Contemporary Collections
Publication date: March 2016
Paris, Olympic city
As the triumph of nation-states asserted itself in Europe, Baron Pierre de Coubertin revived the Hellenic tradition of the ancient games and the Olympic spirit. The events take place at the Colombes stadium and at the Tourelles swimming pool, inaugurated shortly before in the 20th arrondissement of Paris.
The stage and the actors
This official Games poster features six athletes, all white and male, with bare chests and lower bodies covered in white cloth reminiscent of the ancient tunic - figuratively but unrealistically. They take the Olympic oath with their heads turned to the right, presumably towards the unseen platform. In the background, other similarly outstretched hands convey the feeling of number and order. Behind them, tricolor flags take up all the space. In the foreground, we can see the coat of arms of Paris (fluctuat NEC mergitur), half visible, and palms.
The straightness of the bodies and the saturation of the image by the flags deprive the stage of any internal dynamics.
Universalism or nationalism?
The future Nazi salute must not lead to overinterpreting this poster by giving it a meaning that could not be its own in 1924. The comparison with photographs of the opening ceremony of the games it evokes, however, reveals significant transpositions: during what is then more of the ceremony and the military parade than of the party, the athletes, among whom a significant number of women, are dressed in shorts and jerseys. Obviously, the poster moves away from the real sociology of athletes by giving it a more virile and more European-centric image. On the other hand, the national dimension, if not nationalist, of the poster is not without restoring certain features of these games held six years after the end of the world conflict: the Germans were eliminated from the selection, as already four years earlier. , and one can read, on the periphery of the stadium of Colombes: "I promise on the honor to practice the sport with disinterestedness, discipline, loyalty to become better and better to serve my country" and, further, under the rings Olympics which are still only three, “one flag, one empire”.
- Coubertin (Baron Pierre of)
Jean-François BOURG "Olympism at the crossroads", in Universalia 2000Paris, Encyclopedia Universalis, p.112-118. Jean-Marie BROHM The Olympic Myth Paris, Christian Bourgois, 1998.Claude FLEURIDAS and Raymond THOMAS The Olympic Games, historical, institutional, sociological aspects Paris, Editions Revue EPS, 1984.
To cite this article
Danielle TARTAKOWSKY, "The Olympic Games in Paris, 1924"