FAAP Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado
Exposição: Atenas 1896 – A Primeira Olimpíada Moderna

MAB-FAAP hosting photographic exhibition on the First Olympics Of The Modern Era

To celebrate the Olympics being held in Brazil for the first time , the Consulate General of Greece in São Paulo is partnering FAAP to present the photographic exhibition "Athens 1896 - The First Modern Olympics" on MAB-FAAP's mezzanine floor from June 17th to July 4th, with admission is free of charge

After MAB-FAAP, the exhibit will be held at several places in the city of São Paulo, including subway stations such as Sé. In July, it will be at Shopping Iguatemi and Paraiso subway and in August at Conjunto Nacional building on Avenida Paulista and República subway.

By taking the exhibit to various places around the city, the idea is to attract and reach the greatest number of people to see something of the history of the first Olympics of the modern age and appreciate the fine 19th-century documentary photographs.

For the first time in Brazil, the exhibition will present a rare collection consisting of 69 prints, of which 54 feature competitions, prize ceremonies and celebrations and 15 are illustrations, news stories and admission tickets. In addition, the exhibit contains written content to contextualize the first Modern Olympics. The collection belongs to the Benaki Museum in Athens, the Greek Cultural Centre in London, and the Lampakis family archives.

This collection was first exhibited at the previous Olympic Games in London in 2012.

Realistic representation

Photography’s ability of capturing a detailed realistic representation of an instant made it the best way of recording the Olympics. The images of this event, one of the most important in the 19th century, were mostly taken by the Greek photographer Iannis Lampakis (1851-1916) and the German Albert Meyer (1857-1924). Each photographer shot the competitions and athletes in a very subjective manner, which adds to the value of the exhibition.

Even before the Olympics, capturing images of motion was a key focus. However, it was not until photographic emulsion became more sensitive to light and reduced delays in focusing that the image of a moving object could be captured without being blurred. Iannis Lampakis was apparently well informed as to the photographic revelation techniques of his time.

This meant that his work was more naturalistic than those of Meyer, the German photographer. Lampakis shot both ongoing events and award ceremonies, thus auguring 20th century photojournalism in Greece.

Meyer's photographs shown at the exhibition were printed on platinum plates with a wide range of tones lending an austere air to images of the event. The athletes in his images from the Panathenaico Stadium were formally posed, as if they were in a studio.

Another important aspect to appreciate in this exhibition is the technical progress made at the end of the 19th century, particularly as the first user-friendly portable Kodak (1888) and flexible film, previously confined to a privileged layer, became accessible to a wider section of society. In addition to professional photographers who documented track and field events, amateur were also there to test their portable cameras. Although most of them remain anonymous, their images helped build a visual record of the games. Taken from the stands of the stadium, their snapshots provide an overview of the stadium and the athletes.

From the Temple of Hera to Maracanã stadium

The Olympics were first held at the sanctuary of Olympia (Greece) to honor the god Zeus in 776 BC. The games, which took place every four years, as they do today, were the most important Panhellenic events and served as periods of truce amid the wars of the period. In Antiquity, the competitions were located in the temple of Hera, Zeus’s spouse according to Greek mythology, as the main celebration of the ancient Greek world. Withe the ascent of Christianity, the games were deemed pagan events and abolished. The Olympics were not held again until 1894, when Pierre de Coubertin organized an international conference at the Sorbonne in Paris to proposed reviving them as an international sporting event drawing on the model of Ancient Greece.

Pierre de Coubertin joined Dimitrios Vikelas, a Greek businessman and first chair of the International Olympic Committee to sign the agreement for Athens to host the first modern Olympic Games despite the Greek government's response to their bold decision being more skeptical than enthusiastic. But the monarchy and the opposition saw the games as an opportunity to revive the country's image and strengthen the tie between the modern Greek state and the past of ancient Greece. Sponsorships and donations enable the Panathenaico stadium to be built on the ruins of an ancient stadium in Athens.

The schedule for the 1896 Athens Olympics was based on Coubertin's project and included athletics (running, high jump, long jump, pole vault, discus, shot put and marathon) , gymnastics, fencing, wrestling, shooting, water sports (sailing, swimming, rowing and water polo), cycling, horseback riding, tennis and cricket. Coubertin sought to combine track and field events with team games.
This first modern event led to 43 Olympic winners for member countries, of whom 11 were Americans, 10 Greeks, 7 Germans and 5 French. Prizes were olive branches with a certificate made by the Greek painter Nikolas Gyzis and a medal designed by French sculptor Jules-Clement Chaplain.
In the period of 116 years between the 1896 Athens and 2012 London games, there were 28 Olympics and change affected much more than the rules for competitions. Uniforms, kit and commemorative events all tracked the technological and cultural evolution of the 20th and 21st centuries. The Olympics have been winning over more and more followers with women’s events, Paralympic Games, Winter Games and Youth Games.

With their European tradition, the Olympic Games have now come to South America for the first time in history. Rio de Janeiro is preparing to host tourists from all over the world. Rio's symbolic Maracanã stadium will start celebrations for the Games in Brazil.