museum review - Olympics Through Media
Written by Oryx
Marking the XXX Olympiad in London, the ‘Olympics Through Media’ exhibition at the QMA Gallery showcases the development of the relationship between the Games and the media from their humble beginnings.
Coinciding with the 2012 London Olympic Games, when hundreds of cameras will be focused on athletes with footage broadcast to an audience of billions, the ‘Olympics Through Media’ exhibition traces the evolution of the modern Olympics through the development of photography and motion pictures from the 1870s to this year’s Games.
The exhibition, which runs until September 9, has important historical artefacts and visual materials on display, sourced from the collection of the Qatar Olympic & Sports Museum, and Qatar Museum Authority. These include a series of rare archive documentaries and films of the Olympic Games since 1896, as well as historical Olympic objects, photographs, and photographic equipment.
The Olympic Games represent one of the few global media events. They have historically been used to introduce and showcase new technologies and production techniques. From their humble beginnings the Olympic Games and motion pictures have developed together to reach a truly global audience.
The modern Olympic Games and motion pictures emerged in 1896, but the relationship between film-making and the Olympic Games was initially slow. It wasn’t until the advent of television that the synergy between the Games and the media grew into the phenomenon it is today.
The 1906 Athens Games was the first Olympics to attract significant interest from film companies. Gaumont and Pathé from France, the Warwick Trading Company from Britain, and Burton Holmes of America made short films based on the Games and their events.
But it was the 1936 Olympics in Berlin that were pivotal in the relationship between the media and sports. Groundbreaking cinematographic techniques were used to capture the athletes from a range of different perspectives, using multiple movie cameras and, for the first time, limited live television broadcasts.
The 1948 Olympics in London were the first Games to be covered by a public TV service, broadcast on home televisions, although these early broadcasts had limited reach; it was only possible to transmit signals within a 50-mile radius of London. Developments in satellite technology meant the 1964 Olympic Games were the first to be simultaneously broadcast around the world.
From a series of photos of visiting American athletes at the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris showcasing ‘successive phases of motion’, to today’s 24-hour coverage, international audiences and multimillion dollar licence fees, lay bare how far the Olympics and its surrounding media have come.
Bahiya Al-Hamad, a 19-year-old student and air rifle shooter, will be Qatar’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the London Games. She will be part of the first group of Qatari women to compete at an Olympics. Al-Hamad was Qatar’s most successful athlete at the 2011 Arab Games, winning three gold medals and two silver. This year, three women will represent Qatar in London, with Al-Hamad joining swimmer Nada Arkaji, and sprinter Noor al-Malki. Qatar will be represented in athletics, shooting, aquatics, and table tennis.