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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Olympic Visions

Images of the Games through History

Distributed for Reaktion Books

Olympic Visions

Images of the Games through History

African American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos protesting racial segregation in the United States in 1968. Hitler watching the Berlin Olympics in 1936. Michael Phelps’ photo finish in the 100-meter butterfly to win his seventh of a record eight medals in 2008. Since its creation in 1896, the Olympic Games have produced iconic images such as these, from the second the Olympic flame is lit at the lavish opening ceremony to the moment that same flame is extinguished at its close. As billions across the globe watch this showcase of fitness, strength, and skill, few understand how the pictorial legacy of the Games continues to shape the way the events are viewed today.

Olympic Visions explores how painters and sculptors, photographers and filmmakers, and architects and designers have helped to affect the consciousness of spectators around the world. Mike O’Mahony describes and analyzes images such as documentary photographs and posters made of the Olympics throughout history. He also looks at the many special objects, including coins, medals, and sculptures, that have been made to commemorate the games. His detailed insights into the world of Olympic artifacts, combined with the beautiful illustrations included here, present a crucial addition to our understanding of the games and the way we watch them.
With the next Olympic Games beginning in London in July, Olympic Visions will be an essential companion to viewers tuning in to cheer on their national teams to triumph and glory.

175 pages | 80 color plates, 70 halftones | 7 1/2 x 9 4/5 | © 2012

Sport and Recreation

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“A very ambitious pursuit, O’Mahony’s Olympic Visions manages to capture not only the readers’ undivided attention but also over a century’s worth of Olympic visual and creative media history—all in eight concise and well-written chapters that span less than 200 pages. . . . O’Mahony succeeds in making a complex story a little easier to understand, and importantly more relatable, for a wider audience. With the power to say so much more than words ever could, the reader of Olympic Visions will learn that the images and visual representations of the Olympic games hold significant promise for advancing our understanding of the Olympic games and why they matter as a cultural phenomenon.”

Jarrod Jonsrud | Journal of Sport History

“A fine and entertaining study. . . . Olympic Visions can be read as thoughtful reflections on a common theme or happily browsed while waiting for the television commentators to announce the results of the high jump.”

RA Magazine

Olympic Visions is a handsome, beautifully illustrated, well-written book. . . . All readers, whether or not they are receptive to the study of images, will learn a great deal from this volume. . . . This is a fine book that will be enjoyed by anyone interested in the history of the Olympic Games, and especially by those with an interest in visual culture.” 

Canadian Journal of History

“Political considerations aside, this lovely book brings more smiles than frowns to this summer’s main event.”

Diplomat Magazine

Table of Contents

Introduction: Olympic Visions

1. Imaging the Ancient Olympics
2. The Birth of the Modern Olympic Games
3. A Suitable Activity for a Woman?
4. Celluloid Games
5. The Russians Are Coming! The Olympics and the Cold War
6. Olympic Transgressions: Drugs, Political Protest and Terrorism
7. Promoting the Games: Publicity and the Official Olympic Poster
8. Designs on the Olympics: From Stadia to Sporting Paraphernalia

Conclusion: An Olympic Legacy?
Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements

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