Chinese museum displays photos of early modern Olympics


Photos of the first Olympic Games are on display in the exhibition. Photo: Li Hao / GT

Did you know that the first marathon event winner at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 was actually a water carrier? That the bike event lasted 12 hours? And that, apart from the fencers, these athletes were amateurs rather than professionals? These and more interesting treats like them can be found in a new exhibit at the China World Art Museum in Beijing.

More than 20 precious images that record the first Olympic Games traveled thousands of kilometers from Athens to Beijing as part of the 100-day Charming Ice and Snow: the Culture of Winter Olympics of Beijing 2022 photography exhibition remaining until Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

Greek Ambassador to China Georgios Iliopoulos Photo: Li Hao / GT

Greek Ambassador to China Georgios Iliopoulos Photo: Li Hao / GT

“These rare photos of the Benaki Museum taken by photojournalist Albert Meyer and collected in his 1896 Olympic Games album are very current and of great importance,” Greek Ambassador to China Georgios Iliopoulos told the Global Times at the meeting. ‘opening Wednesday.

“These artistically pioneering photos give us a unique sense or feeling of the Greek light captured there. The same light, from ancient Olympia, was lit in Greece just 10 days ago and was delivery to BOCOG [the Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games], marking the start of the Beijing Winter Games, to which I once again wish them every success. “

Spirit of 1896

According to Wang Zhaoyi, curator of the China World Art Museum, Meyer’s photos of the 1896 Olympic Games bear witness to a breakthrough in the history of sporting events: “The revival of this ancient tradition has transformed international sporting events into world events that we know today.

The 25 rather spartan photographs in his album recounted the Games, documenting both the sporting rituals and the work of the participants. The photos include subjects and events such as the International Olympic Committee, the main Greek benefactor of the Games Georgios Averof, the Athens Philharmonic Orchestra performing at the opening ceremony as well as various athletes, including the ‘bearer of the Olympic Games’. ‘water’ Louis Spyros, who posed for Meyer wearing traditional Greek clothing after winning the first marathon.

The album becomes the official memory of the Games reserved for a few members of the International Olympic Committee and the royal courts of the participating countries. However, Meyer’s photography studio and archives were destroyed in 1945 due to World War II, turning the original photographs into rare and priceless artifacts. Only one of the few leather albums has remained and has been donated to the historical archives of the Benaki Museum as a unique testimony to both history and art.

As precious as these photos are, the opportunity for China and Greece to develop closer relations through this exhibition is even more precious. Ioannis Chryssoulakis, general secretary of Greeks Abroad and Public Diplomacy, which sponsored the exhibition, said in a pre-recorded video: will help our Chinese friends to better understand the cultural richness of Greece, where it all began. ”

The exhibition also includes two other Technological Highlights sections, the beauty of ice and snow sports and 70 years of ice and snow sports history in China.

Both sections feature photos showing China’s long winter sports tradition and the achievements in professional winter events of hundreds of sports photographers, photo editors and technicians over the years.

Before the Games

The Ambassador and Chryssoulakis both said they “look forward to the Games”.

“Despite the fact that there have been many adjustments in the preparations due to the pandemic, the venues are ready for the Games. Everything is in place for the Games,” the ambassador told the Global Times.

“The Olympic Games are not just about venues, technical arrangements and material preparation! We must not forget that the modern Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement derive from the noble ideas and culture of ancient Greece, perhaps the only ancient civilization that gave priority to the idea. of noble competition, fairness and a spirit of excellence through sport, through the Olympic Games. “


About Carlos V. Mitchell

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