Our Olympians are artists!

At the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, they brought the Olympic values to life through art. A first! 

8 min
Our Olympians are artists!
(Picture by IOC)

They have taken part in the Olympic Games at least once as athletes and they are artists. In PyeongChang, they were not be in contention for a medal, but they brought the Olympic values to life through art and by coming together with athletes in the Olympic Village. Olympians Alexi Pappas (10 km runner), Roald Bradstock (javelin thrower), Lanny Barnes (biathlete) and Jean-Blaise Evequoz (fencer) were the “Olympian artists” at the XXIII Olympic Winter Games.

For the first time in the history of the Olympic Winter Games, some Olympians who are also artists have been invited to the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games to be part of the “Olympic Art project” developed by the IOC.

This initiative was set up in the framework of Olympic Agenda 2020, the strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement, which aims to “further strengthen the blending of sport and culture at the Olympic Games and in-between”.

Four Olympians  celebrated the spirit of Olympism through art with a wider audience via the hashtag #OlympicArt.

Over the course of 17 days, they reconnected with the ideal of Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Games, for whom “the arts and letters, in harmonious combination with sport, shall ensure the greatness of the Olympic Games”.

In PyeongChang, these Olympians shared their creative spirit and experiment with different forms of artistic expression through two projects:

One was a series of short films d’auteur that was shot on location and blended fiction and reality conceived by Alexi Pappas (a long-distance runner, poet and filmmaker) and partner Jeremy Teicher (a filmmaker and writer). Through the story of a fictional athlete at the Winter Games who has devoted her life to her Olympic dream, the filmmakers embarked on a poetic exploration of the Olympic values.

Organized by Olympians for Olympians, the other artistic project consisted of a workshop led by three Olympians who are visual artists at Gangneung Olympic Village.  Together with athletes, they collectively completed 15 paintings inspired by the Winter Games, at a rate of one painting per day. The works were created and shown in the Olympic Village in Gangneung. To join the action, required was no experience with brush and paint!

Alexi Pappas and Jeremy Teicher
Alexi Pappas and Jeremy Teicher (Jeremy Teicher )

Lights, camera, action! In select Olympic venues with the Olympian Alexi Pappas and the filmmaker Jeremy Teicher

Alexi Pappas competed in the Olympic Games in Rio, setting a national record for Greece in the 10km with a time of 31:36 and is now training for the Games in Tokyo 2020. An elite distance runner, writer and filmmaker, she has been profiled in many magazines. Alexi recently co-wrote, co-directed, and starred in the feature film Tracktown, which was produced with the support from the Sundance Institute and premiered at the 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival. 

Jeremy Teicher, is a film writer, director and named one of the "25 New Faces of Independent Film": He co-directed Tracktown with Alexi Pappas. The NYT described his technique as "working in the neorealist style of Satyajit Ray". His first movie Tall as the Baobab, shot in Senegal, had been screened at over 50 film festivals.

During the Games, they created a series of auteur-style narrative short films that blended fiction with reality. These episodes or "video postcards" of three minutes each were framed by an Olympic value. The fictional storyline revolves around a young cross-country skiing athlete (played by Alexi), and a volunteer in the Olympic Village (played by Nick Kroll, an American actor), who cross paths and form an unlikely relationship. They each have transformative experiences at the Games, returning home with a new outlook on life. The short films each featured a poem voiceover written and performed by Alexi devoted to specific Olympic values and virtues. Athletes were invited to volunteer on site to participate in short acting scenes! This poetic exploration of the Olympic values is now available on the IOC's and Alexi's platforms.

While in PyeongChang, Alexi and Jeremy also produced 10 clips of between 60 to 90 seconds documenting Alexi's real-time adventure as an Olympian artist in residence at these Games but also as an athlete in training. These "making of" are available on the IOC and Alexi's platforms. They offered a glimpse into the mind of an Olympian, an unfiltered look into Alexi's creative and athletic process in PyeongChang.

"We will be breaking new ground with this project, allowing all people to experience the Olympic values through an artistic lens film like never before" explained Alexi.

Follow Alexi's daily adventures on olympic.org, on the IOC's social media platforms (@olympics) and on Alexi's Instagram and Youtube channels @alexipappas 

Painting the Olympic values at Gangneung Olympic Village with Roald Broadstock, Lanny Barnes and Jean-Blaise Evequoz

This art initiative was organised by Olympians for Olympians and created and shown in Gangneung Olympic Village during the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

Olympic athletes using a brush and paint had, collectively, produced 15 paintings, at the rate of one per day. Each individual painting represented one of the 15 Olympic winter sports. When the 15 paintings were completed and arranged in three rows of five, they became one painting revealing the Olympic values which are at the heart of this initiative. In addition, there was one large painting that had been done during the entire Games period. For the first time, ever, hundreds of Olympians came together to create Olympic art!

Three Olympians who are also artists worked and oversaw this program. Roald Bradstock (a two-time Olympic javelin thrower for Great-Britain), Lanny Barnes (a three-time Olympic biathlete and professional artist from the USA.) and Jean Blaise Evequoz (a Swiss artist who competed in fencing in the 1976 Olympic Games).

Roald Bradstock is a two-time British Olympic javelin thrower (GBR- 1984 & 1988) and an award winning international Olympic sports artist (USA - 2000). He has turned the javelin runway into a fashion runway, wearing hand painted outfits and throwing matching hand painted optical javelins. He holds dozens of "official" and "unofficial" throwing world records for throwing a javelin, golf ball (170 yards), iPod (154 yards) and even a vinyl record (112.10 metres) to name but a few…

Lanny Barnes is a three-time Olympic biathlete and professional artist. She competed in biathlon in the 2006, 2010, & 2014 Olympic Winter Games. She has a twin sister, Tracy, whom she competed with in Turin, Italy, in 2006. Both girls made history when Tracy selflessly gave Lanny her spot on the Sochi 2014 Olympic team after Lanny fell ill and wasn't able to complete all the races. Tracy was given the United Nations UNESCO International Fair Play award and the US Olympic Committee Inspiration Award for her selfless act and for demonstrating true Olympic spirit.  Chances are she will give you the spot for painting!

Jean Blaise Evequoz, born in Sion (SUI), is a Swiss fencer and an artist. He won a bronze medal in fencing in the 1976 Olympic Games. He is a professional artist exhibiting all around the world. With the athlete, Al Oerter, he is one of the initiators of the Art of Olympians Association (AOTO), which brings together former Olympic athletes converted to art.

For Roald Bradstock, the instigator of this project, "this collaborative Olympic project focuses on and celebrates the Olympic athlete, giving Olympians an opportunity to show their creative side, discuss Olympic values and ideals, and work together to show unity, community and friendship. This project is about combining the universal languages of sport and art – a project about Olympians, created by Olympians for Olympians."

Inviting artists to the Games

Recommendation 26 of Olympic Agenda 2020, the Olympic Movement's strategic roadmap, is to "further strengthen the blending of sport and culture at the Olympic Games and in-between". One initiative under this recommendation is to invite artists to create original new work during and between different editions of the Olympic Games. During the Olympic Games Rio 2016, three artists were invited: JR, the French photographer Gerald Andal, the digital artist and Tilman Spengler, the writer.

In PyeongChang 2018, for the first time ever, Olympians who are also artists took up a different challenge: bring the Olympic values to life through art and by coming together with athletes in the Olympic Village.

These art initiatives echo the first fundamental principle laid down in the Olympic Charter: "Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles."

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