Cultural Olympiad: art takes centre stage at the Paris Games


Cultural Heritage

© MartinChang/MC/SIPA PRESS

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 8 March 2024

The Olympic and Paralympic Games are not just about sport, far from it! On the initiative of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, cultural events have accompanied each Olympic Games for over a hundred years. Art competitions have been held as far back as 1948. The Paris Games are no exception, with several hundred cultural events taking place throughout France before and during the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Between now and the end of the summer of 2024, musicians, dancers, actors, photographers and visual artists will take over a number of cultural, natural and sports sites. Hundreds of events open to all are planned in metropolitan France and its overseas territories. They'll be a great way to share the Olympic spirit with the public as they await the athletes' performances.

A number of iconic venues such as the Halle de la Villette, the Opéra Garnier in Paris, the Château de Versailles and the Mucem in Marseille, in Provence, will host renowned artists and young talents. From the choreographers Mourad Merzouki and Raphaëlle Boitel to Bartabas. 

Olympic and eco-responsible pavilions at La Villette

 ©LVWTFQ - Parc de la Villette, Paris.

It's a rather crazy project - halfway between culture and sport - that's about to see the light of day in Paris' Parc de la Villette as part of the 2024 Cultural Olympiad. One of the capital's main green lungs will be home to a series of temporary pavilions for twenty sports federations next summer, which will serve as a celebration ground for future (and hopefully many) French medallists in Club France during the Paris Games. Designed and built by students from France's national schools of architecture, these eco-responsible buildings, known as "archi-folies", will then be dismantled and reassembled throughout France to promote regional sports or recycled. This summer, a year before the opening of the Olympic Games (and the inauguration of Club France), the first models and sketches were exhibited at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture Paris-Malaquais, near the Pont des Arts. A first glimpse before discovering these new collective works along the Canal de l'Ourcq next June. 

French cinema at the Games

 *© CNC / Vincent Baillais-Several film-concerts are planned in France to mark the Cultural Olympiad. *

With the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games just a few months away, why not catch up on your sporting and cinematic culture? As part of the Cultural Olympiad, the Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animée (CNC) is showing two restored silent films as part of ciné-concerts in a number of French cities. The first, Le Roman de Carpentier (1913), tells the heroic story of boxing champion Georges Carpentier, set to electro music by Maxime Dangles. A few weeks after the 2023 Rugby World Cup, the second short film, La Grande Passion (1928), takes viewers behind the scenes of the French rugby team and the popular enthusiasm its players inspired even then. The concert will be performed by composer and performer Johann Percival.

A few dates to remember:

Le Roman de Carpentier : 26 January 2024, Lux Scène Nationale de Valence, south of Lyon. 23 March 2024 in Epinal, in the Vosges, as part of the festival organised by Image Est.

La Grande Passion: 25 January 2024: Lux Scène Nationale de Valence.

Several sports-related exhibitions to discover this autumn

The Cultural Olympiad is a great opportunity to showcase the culture of sport in France. Following the success of the European Heritage Days, the 2023 edition of which showcased the heritage of sport with visits and artistic performances in stadiums, swimming pools and racecourses, as well as in a number of cultural sites such as the nave of the Musée d'Orsay, many museums and public places are offering exhibitions on the theme of sport this autumn.

With the Rugby World Cup coming to France in 2023, the Archives Départementales du Gers in Occitanie are presenting an exhibition entitled "Du Coq à l'âme", which illustrates the local roots of the sport. Around a hundred archival documents, collected over a period of almost two years from clubs and individuals, will be on display from 13 October 2023 to 26 January 2024. Oval enthusiasts will be able to attend lectures, read archive documents and buy a book dedicated to the exhibition.

This autumn, the Cultural Olympiad will also feature other exhibitions on sport. In Paris, the Musée de l'Armée is dedicated to the celebration of sporting victories in public spaces ("Victoire!"), while the Musée des Arts Décoratifs explores the links between sport and fashion through a collection of clothes and accessories ("Mode et sport, d'un podium à l'autre"). In Nice, the Musée National du Sport pays tribute to female athletes whose sporting achievements have helped to promote gender equality in sport ("Les Elles des Jeux").

Cultural events not to be missed in 2024

In spring 2024, the Olympic torch relay will offer a chance to appreciate art performances at different regions and tourist spots it passes through, like the ramparts of Carcassonne in Occitanie or the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy.

Whether they're budding artists or future athletes, young people will be at the heart of the Cultural Olympiad. From April to June, the Children's and Young People's Olympic Games will feature exhibitions and events for young audiences in museums and cultural centres, as well as community projects and the "danse des jeux", a choreography created by Mourad Merzouki and taught in schools.

Then, from 21 to 23 June, it's the turn of the amateur artists to put on a show for the Amateur Olympics: an extended music festival to warm up and practise before the arrival of the first athletes and the Opening Ceremony a month later.

To the delight of spectators, the festivities will continue during the Olympic competitions and throughout the summer, with works of art exhibited in public spaces and various performances such as musicians on bicycles...


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