People’s Olympiad of 1936 and other great Olympic Games poster designs

The Modern Records centre at the University of Warwick has collected and digitised hundreds of documents relating to the Spanish Civil War, which broke out in 1936. It is part of the archive of the British Trades Union Congress and is now online. It has uncovered the amazing poster design for the alternative anti-nazi Olympics that never came to be.


Sadly the planned event was cancelled due to the commencement of the Spanish Civil War only days before the opening. The 1936 Berlin Olympics went ahead overseen by Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

I’d like to share with you the article from Kelly Parkes-Harrison that outlines the research behind the project undertaken at Warwick University in the UK. This is published via under Creative Commons License 3.0

Then, below, I want to take a look at some of the great designs for Olympic posters from days gone by. It’s a shame that the 2012 London Olympics, due to officially commence tomorrow, couldn’t be influenced by some of the better designs from past decades.


Okay, here is the article:

Anti-Nazi games protested 1936 Berlin Olympics


Posted by Kelly Parkes-Harrison on Thursday, July 26, 2012 11:57

The People’s Olympiad was due to take place between July 22 and 26, 1936—76 years and one day before this summer’s London Olympics Games begin. See the full poster here. (Credit: Modern Records Centre/U. Warwick)

U. WARWICK (UK) —A new online archive offers a glimpse of the People’s Olympiad, an unrealized alternative to the 1936 Olympics held in Nazi-ruled Berlin.

As London gears up for the opening ceremony of this summer’s Olympics, the documents revealing details of the People’s Olympiad, which would have taken place 76 years ago this month in Barcelona, have gone online.

Archivists at the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick have uncovered and digitized programs, letters, and images from the 1936 Barcelona People’s Olympiad, an event set up in opposition to the Summer Olympics held that year in Berlin during the period of Nazi rule.

Despite gaining considerable support, the People’s Olympiad had to be cancelled due to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War on July 17, 1936, just five days before the Olympiad was due to start.

The online archive, called “Trabajadores: The Spanish Civil War through the eyes of organised labour,” features a publicity poster for the People’s Olympiad, as well as a program, press cuttings, and letters of support.

A total of 6,000 athletes from 22 nations had registered for the People’s Olympiad, including male and female athletes from the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and French Algeria. Teams from Germany and Italy had also signed up, made up of political exiles.

The government of the French Peoples’ Front had granted 500,000 Francs for the participation of the French delegation.

The People’s Olympiad was due to take place between July 22 and 26, 1936—76 years and one day before this summer’s London Olympics Games begin. Alongside more traditional events such as swimming and boxing, the programs also list chess and folk dancing.

The documents are part of more than 13,000 pages from the Trades Union Congress files relating to the Spanish Civil War. Staff at the University of Warwick’s Modern Records Centre have taken 13 months to scan and index all the material.

More news from University of Warwick:

Creative Commons LicenseThe text of this article by Futurity is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivatives License.




This article inspired me to do some research on some of my favourite posters from past Olympics.

Here are some amazing posters from previous Olympic Games.



1948 Olympic Games, London

This was the first Olympic Games to follow the 1936 Berlin Olympic as World War II took its toll on sports and international competitions. 100,000 copies of this poster were printed and distributed across towns and cities in the UK. The posters were proudly displayed in schools, sports venues and public spaces.

This Olympic poster was designed by Walter Herz and features an Ancient Greek statue of a discus thrower in front of the Houses of Parliament. This month Bonhams Auctioneers will auction an original poster at an estimated value of £1000 – £1500. Christie’s has also sold an original valued at the same price. It sold for £4000 in April 2012. So, if you have any of these originals knocking about in the attic somewhere, now might be the time to sell it. Just saying.

London, in 1948, was still suffering the economic hardships brought on by World War II. Food rationing was still going on and the Olympic venues were perhaps not the best standard. It was a time of ‘make do and mend’.

The 1948 London Olympics were dubbed The Austerity Games. It was a symbolic effort on the part of the UK to try and get back to normality and after 12 years of no Olympic Games being held. Needless to say that Germany and Japan were not invited to attend.

London 1948 Olympics

London 1948 Olympics

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1924 Olympic Games, Paris

Two official posters were produced from the 150 designs submitted. 20,000 were printed with 12,000 sent abroad to promote the event. The first was designed by John Droit and the second by Orsi. Christie’s Auctioneers sold the Orsi original poster for £2500 in April 2012.

For film fans, this is the Olympics of the Chariots of Fire film of 1981. A British film classic which won four Oscars. It depicted the true story of the friendly rivalry between two athletes: Scotsman Eric Liddell and Englishman Harold Abrahams. They both won a gold medal in 1924. Tarzan (aka Johnny Weissmuller) also won three gold medals in swimming.

Jeux Olympiques, Paris, 1924

Jeux Olympiques,…Jean Droit

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Poster for the Paris Olympiad

Poster for the…


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1972 Olympic Games, Munich

This will always be remembered as the tragic Olympics in which the world witnessed the terrorist attack and massacre of eleven athletes in the Israeli team. Organisers had initially dubbed it The Happy Games to help erase the dark memories linked to the 1936 Berlin Games. But they could not foresee the events which unfolded in the second week. The Black September Group took the team hostage in a bid to release 234 Palestinian prisoners. The siege at the Olympic Village lasted 18 hours. A failed rescue attempt caused many of the deaths.

The official posters for the Munich Olympic Games of 1972 are significant for several reasons. First of all, 29 posters were produced to represent the Games to an international audience. Also, many of them featured abstract art or altered photographs with unusual colour mixing; some posters had only lettering or diagrams. Also, unusually, the image dominated over the logo or emblem of the 1972 Olympics.

The posters were intended to represent the intertwining of sports and art. Limited editions of the posters were brought out, increasing their value. Some of the more well-known artists that produced posters included David Hockney and Josef Albers.

You can view and/or buy all of these hard to find 1972 Munich Olympic posters here. It’s truly worth taking a look, they are stunning. The two below are by Valerio Adami and Charles Lapicque.

1972 Olympics

1972 Olympics

Valerio Adami

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Munich Olympics, 1972

Munich Olympics,…

Charles Lapicque

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Olympiad art poster
Munich Olympics, 1972 by Allen Jones 34.5″x25.25″ Art Print Poster


I hope this has inspired you to explore the poster art of the Olympic Games. Perhaps one day we can more appreciate the artwork that has been produced in more recent years. Only time will tell.

For further history of the Olympic Games, take a look at the history of Olympic sportswear here at V is for Vintage.

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