London 2012, Creativity in the London Olympics31/07/2012
The largest and most hyped sporting event on the planet is, without a doubt, the Olympic Games. This is the sporting event which celebrates the best of the best in international athletic talent from all four corners of the globe, with over two hundred nations participating for glory and for gold!
But behind the facade of glamour, the Olympics is also an event that raises a lot of controversy ‚ not least here in Britain where there have been criticisms that too much money is spent on the Olympic event when serious social issues need to be addressed first.
So amid all the media frenzy and criticisms, as well as praise, is there even room to raise another subject – creativity?
But let’s just back up a moment ‚ how did these games even come about?
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LONDON CITY HAS BEEN PHYSICALLY PREPARING FOR THE CURRENT GAMES SINCE JULY 2005 – AND THE 2012 OLYMPICS WILL BE LONDON’S THIRD TIME HOSTING THIS EVENT – THE LAST TIME BEING IN 1948.
Dating back to around 776 BC in Ancient Greece, the games were originally a religious festival held in Olympia, Greece, in honour of Zeus, that Big Daddy of Greek Gods. The winners of Olympic sporting events became heroes of the day, admired and immortalized in poems and statues, and receiving huge acclaim (so not much has changed there!). Then the Romans came to power, and with them Christianity, and the games were downgraded as a Pagan celebrations… so in 393 AD, the Emperor Theodosius banned them completely‚ and in time, Olympia was buried by earthquakes and floods ‚ a forgotten place.
But the 19th century saw a revival of interest in sports, and the discovery of Olympia by archaeologists led to renewed enthusiasm in sport on an international scale. Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin believed the success of the ancient Greek civilization was partly due to the ideals of freedom and fellowship, symbolically represented by the Games.
He organized a meeting, which was held in Paris in 1894 – and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was formed to preside over the first modern Olympic Games at Athens in 1896, and all subsequent Games to the present day. And so sporting history was (re)made.
London city has been physically preparing for the current games since July 2005 – and the 2012 Olympics will be London’s third time hosting this event – the last time being 1948.
So is all the work surrounding this event boosting creativity in the city, or hindering it?
In Creative Mapping’s special Olympic issue, we’re featuring interviews with key creatives who have been directly involved in the sister festival; The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, exploring the positives and negatives of these events and developments:
East London was seen as a prime location for major developments, and there are high hopes that the Olympic 2012 event and its related developments will bring accessibility as well as new opportunities for the east London district. The preparation for London 2012 involved the regeneration of Stratford, in East London. Architect Friedrich Ludewig worked on the
London 2012 Masterplan, Olympic Park and infrastructure commission between 2004 and 2007. We caught up with Friedrich to learn more about this first hand.
But there are always two sides to every coin of change, and developing Stratford and the East region has not gone without its problems. There have been numerous anti-Olympic campaigns and individuals, actively voicing their opinions. In our interview with Hillary Powell, co-editor and publisher of ‚The Art of Dissent: Adventures in London’s Olympic State’, we got more details on this hot topic.
Whilst we’ll have to wait post-Olympics to see the how the legacy and integrity of developments in East London pans out, we can currently see the fruits of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad – a major festival covering everything from art, literature, comedy, dance, fashion, film, food, music, theatre etc… taking place in London and around the UK and encouraging community involvement.
Opinions vary as to whether the Cultural Olympiad in the UK has actually serviced the arts directly, but figures from across the UK show that a massive 16 million people have been involved, or attended performances.
The Cultural Olympiad has also triggered some interesting creative collaborations from around the globe in celebration of this high profile sporting event. In our interview with composer Joe Cutler, he told us what was involved in coordinating professional table tennis players and a stringed quartet into one very unique performance piece.
Another interesting collaboration was organised by the British Fashion Council as part of the Cultural Olympiad and housed at the V&A museum in London, fusing art and fashion together on a grand scale. In curator Susanna Greeves interview with Creative Mapping, she talked more about her involvement with the exhibition and international artists.. and why she believes creativity is very much thriving in the Olympics.
Other aspects of creativity are evident as influential designers and architects also make their stamp on the London Olympics. East Londoner’s Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby designedthe Olympic torch which carries the flame in the relay. Zaha Hadid Architects designed the Aquatics Centre, and Hopkins Architects designed the Velodrome. In fashion, Stella McCartney designed the Team GB outfits‚ So as Creative Mapping discovered, creativity is very much alive and kicking in red, white and blue for London 2012.