Did You Know?

The Olympic Games used to award medals for art.

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Maybe artists deserve varsity jackets, too. From 1912 to 1948, the Olympics held competitions in the fine arts, with medals being awarded for architecture, literature, music, painting and sculpture. The art produced was required to be Olympics-themed, so gold-winning pieces had names like, “Knockdown” and “Étude de Sport.” The first winning work of literature was actually written by the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin, who supposedly wrote the piece, “Ode to Sport,” under a pseudonym.

According to Frédy, adding an arts component to the modern Olympics was necessary because the ancient Greeks used to hold art festivals alongside the games. Over the years, dancing, film, photography and theatre were all proposed as additional events, but none of these ever became medal categories. In total, 151 medals were awarded before the Olympics removed the art competitions in favor of requiring host cities to provide cultural events to accompany the games.

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