OSCAR Pistorius’s comments after losing the final of the 200m were a reminder that the elite athletes competing in the Paralympics don’t just have keep themselves in peak physical condition, but also watch that their rivals don’t run away with any technological edge. It is the skill and speed of athletes like Pistorius, and now Alan Oliviera, that captivates the crowds, but it’s a thrill that rests too on ingenuity and excellence in engineering: the latest materials in the smartest combinations. Continue reading
Category Archives: Olympics
ACCORDING to one tradition that has come down to us from antiquity, the Greek philosopher Plato was also a victor at the ancient Olympic Games – for wrestling. Another anecdote adds that his real name was Aristocles. “Plato”, as we know him today, is just a nickname referring to his broad, well-muscled shoulders. Continue reading
ONE hundred years ago, the first Olympic medals were awarded for cultural achievement. In the summer of 1912 in Stockholm, exponents of architecture, literature, music, painting and sculpture were celebrated alongside the runners and the jumpers. The tradition continued for decades, with a final hurrah at the London Games of 1948, when the medallists’ work was exhibited at the Victoria and Albert museum. Since then, the awarding of medals to artists has been given up, replaced by cultural exhibitions held alongside the Games, like this year’s Cultural Olympiad. Continue reading
IT’S fitting that the Olympic flame, which passed through the City yesterday, is lit in Olympia by focusing the sun’s rays in a mirror. The modern Games is a mirror of nations, in which the host nation and its guests reveal themselves to the world.
Take the torch relay. For the Nazis, who ran the first relay in 1936, it was a statement of imperial intent. The flame crossed Czechoslovakia like a dog marking its territory. For Britain’s latest Games, the same symbol is instead a beacon of both a peaceful ideal and more local anxieties, criss-crossing the length and breadth of our small island, in an effort to bring a spirit of national unity to a Games centred on London. Continue reading
THE Barbican’s new Bauhaus exhibition is full of ghosts. These early twentieth-century disciples of modernism are renowned for furniture as coolly perfect as an equation, but it is the human messiness of achievement that haunts every room. A chair that takes the breath away is posed between half-finished student exercises, invitations to parties and dozens of photographs of the German design school’s members eating, playing and working. It’s a reminder that permanent achievement – in design and elsewhere – is never a sterile process, but a living conversation between creative minds as they grapple with their materials. Continue reading
THE Olympic flame is making its way around the length and breadth of Britain, a vivid symbol of one of the key values of the ancient Games: freedom of movement. Before the games at Olympia, a truce was declared so that officials and athletes could make their way to the Games without hindrance or legal dispute. It’s an approach we still need today and it’s a shame that one of the more tangible forms in which its spirit lives on doesn’t get more attention: the legal relaxations that accompany the modern Games. Continue reading