Giant inflatables and flying dancers. Olympic art has always turned heads.

In the days before the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony, people were treated to the sight of a giant head floating over the city. Entitled Masayume, this oversized balloon installation by Japanese artist collective Me, was part of the Tokyo Tokyo Festival], as an arts response to the Olympic Games. 

Art has long accompanied the arrival of the Olympics in a city. Budgets might vary, but as the largest mega-event out there, local organisations and the Olympic Organising Committee both seek to capitalise on the attention the Games garner by generating extracurricular cultural moments that echo the athletic accomplishments in the stadiums.

In this article, Beatriz García discusses the history of iconic Olympic art interventions and debates the latest experience in Tokyo.

Access this paper via The Conversation

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Beatriz Garcia

I have led research on the cultural policy frameworks, resulting impacts and legacies of large scale events since 1998. I have documented the Cultural Olympiad since its start in 1912 and the European Capital of Culture programme since its launch in 1985. I have also hit the streets, conducting fieldwork at every Olympic Games since 2000 and at most European Capitals of Culture since 2007. I am Culture Advisor to the International Olympic Committee and member of the European Capital of Culture Selection Panel. I direct international research at the University of Liverpool.

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