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The legend (of) Pierre

This hipster looking fellow is a legend in my eyes. Everybody who loves sports and art should know who he is.

Born Pierre de Frédy, baron de Coubertin, better known as Pierre de Coubertin, was a French historian and pedagogue who founded the modern Olympics. He wanted men to be educated in both mind and body, and competing in sport rather than war. He is also famous for the saying participating is more important than winning: "The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

Pierre had the wish to integrate art and culture into the Olympic movement. The main reason he has a place here, and why you sportart lovers have to know the baron. In 1912 he organised the Olympic Art Competitions for the first time during the Olympic Games in Stockholm. The works of art entered had to be inspired by sports. From 1912 to 1948, artists were able to participate in the Olympic Games in the five categories of Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Music and Literature. Just like the athletes, the first three places were awarded Olympic medals. The gold medallists are recorded in the Olympic winner lists as official Olympic champions to this day!

The official art competition eventually was stopped because of several reasons. One being the International Olympic Committee's amateur conditions to participate in the Olympics. Which became a problem with the artists being professionals and not amateurs. The most successful Olympic artist, is Jean Jacoby (1891 - 1936), winning two gold medals. In 1924 he won with three watercolours entitled Etude de sport in Paris. The work shown here is Rugby. At 1928 Olympic Art Competitions in my hometown Amsterdam, Jacoby won his second gold medal for his drawing Rugby.

The success of the Paris Art Competitions was repeated in 1928 with the games in Amsterdam. In total around 1200 works from 18 countries entered. Dutch architect Jan Wils (1891-1972) won Olympic gold for his design of the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium. Go Holland! The exhibition displaying the contestants was in the Stedelijk Museum. The exhibition title not surprisingly was Art and Sport and was also published in an accompanying exhibition catalogue for the first time.

The art competitions Baron de Coubertin invisioned them ended in 1954. However, since Melbourne 1956, there has been an obligatory high-profile cultural program at all the Olympic Games, even at the winter Olympics. In addition, the IOC allocates art prizes and announces competitions in fine arts and literature.

Pierre withdrew from the IOC in 1925 to devote his time to his pedagogue work. He died suddenly in 1937 because of a heart attack in Genève. A man with a clear vision, in which sport and art had a very big place.

Baron, I salute you!

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