Boxing rings won't be the only canvases at next summer's Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Paintings—not to mention concerts, sculpture, opera and dance—will all be part of the Olympic Arts Festival to be held in Greater L.A. from June 1 to August 12. Boxing, an Olympic sport since 1904, predates the art appendage by only two Olympiads. At Stockholm in 1912, competition in the fine arts and literature was added as another means of accentuating the classic Greek ideal of the whole person. Paintings, sculpture, music and writing were judged and awarded gold, silver and bronze medals, just as for the athletic events.
Such competition continued throughout the years at both the Summer and Winter Games, but interest dwindled. In 1936 the artwork was considered so inferior that judges withheld the gold medal and awarded only the silver and bronze. By 1948 medals were no longer given—the competition had become a mere exhibition—which, curiously, seemed to stir interest. The Japanese allocated $18 million for the exhibition at Sapporo in 1972, and the Canadians $11 million for Montreal in 1976. The U.S., however, hardly bothered in 1980, putting up only $246,000 and placing exhibits 40 miles from Lake Placid.
But 1984 promises to be a knockout year. For the first time a private sponsor, the L.A.-based Times Mirror Co., is behind the festival and is providing $5 million to attract high-quality works of art and performers from the world of music. Included will be Impressionist paintings on loan from the Louvre and appearances by London's Royal Opera and jazz and New Wave bands from the U.S. The Russian Moiseyev Dance Company and 18 other dance organizations, including Twyla Tharp's and the Joffrey Ballet, have been invited.
"We're using the Olympics as an excuse to hold one of the major arts festivals in the world," says festival Director Robert Fitzpatrick. "It will be a celebration—of ears that hear and eyes that see; an intellectual preface and happy introduction to the athletics."