For the past two weeks, the world watched athletes from the world over compete and triumph in the 2012 Olympic Games. Meanwhile, museums the world over competed on Twitter in the tongue-in cheek competition #MuseumOlympics, which originated right here in San Francisco. Willa Köerner, digital engagement associate at SFMOMA and today's guest blogger, takes us behind the scenes of #MuseumOlympics and reveals the origins of what will surely become a new quadrennial tradition.
Isaiah West Taber (American, 1830–1912). Olympic Club Day, 1894. Gelatin silver print. California Midwinter International Exposition, through M.H. deYoung. 2502
The Olympic canoe sprint, an event that starts on August 6, looks pretty weird when you think about it: human beings wrapped in brightly colored fabrics, sitting in little plastic shells, racing on a simulated river. It would have looked even weirder to the ancient Greeks. The first Olympic event was actually pretty simple, the stadion: a foot race of exactly one stade, which was a length of about 180 meters. It was run naked, it was over in less than a minute, and nobody capsized. The ancient Olympics did include some pretty weird sports however, and Gifts From the Gods: Art and the Olympic Ideal, currently on view at the Legion of Honor, exhibits several ancient coins depicting some of the oddest ones.
Jockey galloping right, holding torch(obverse), silverdidrachm, ca. 280-272 BC, Tarentum, Calabria. Anonymous Loan
As millions watch the Summer Olympics opening ceremony this Friday, July 27, the best athletes in the world will officially open the Games of the XXX Olympiad. The next day, Saturday, July 28, Gifts from the Gods: Art and the Olympic Ideal opens at the Legion of Honor. Like the opening ceremony, and the Games themselves, this exhibition celebrates athletic achievement. Whereas the opening ceremony will be a huge spectacle, the winners of the events will be determined on a much smaller scale—with sometimes just milliseconds separating gold and silver medalists.
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