Tag Archives: Olympics

Compound: the dream is dead. For now.

15 October, 2023

So the glorious future for compound archery as an Olympic sport has been ground firmly into the dust, for now – and maybe forever.

The news came via a public IOC missive that didn’t even bother to mention the sport; not even a ‘thanks but no thanks’. It merely made it clear that none of the Olympic sports that had requested an addition to their discipline programmes would be getting them – apart from rowing.

Overall, the discipline review highlighted various opportunities that exist for the IOC, LA28 and the IFs to work together to reduce the cost and complexity of the sports programme at the Games.

Following a holistic review of all existing and new disciplines proposed by the respective IFs with sports on the LA28 programme, only one change has been made to the discipline programme compared to Paris 2024, with beach sprint rowing, a format of the coastal rowing discipline, included on the Olympic programme for the first time. It will replace the lightweight double sculls (men 2x and women 2x) events. The inclusion of beach sprint rowing is the outcome of a decade-long development of coastal rowing with the active support of rowing communities across the world. The new discipline will share an existing Games venue, to be determined, with another sport.

(NOTE: ‘IFs’, by the way, refer to ‘International Federations’, which are the overall governing bodies of international sports – such as World Archery, World Rowing etc.)

The only sport that got what it wanted for LA was rowing, with the inclusion of a single coastal rowing event, but as you can see, this was at the expense of another discipline. Coastal rowing has indeed been growing as a sport worldwide, but there isn’t any particular reason why that deserves to be there more than compound.

As to why rowing got what it wanted, it has been speculated that this was a bone thrown because of the massive disruption caused by holding the LA rowing events on a course that is 1500m long, rather than the usual 2km – the distance that has been standard since the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm (bar 1948). The decision was taken in order to make the Games more ‘compact and economical’; which is not an unreasonable path.

Any new disciplines or events proposed (note the difference between new events and new sports, which take different pathways to arriving at the Games) must make it past a set of criteria set down by the IOC which include cost, athlete quotas, popularity, universality, and governance:

This list, however, is essentially an impossible list of hurdles; ultimately it’s so wide-ranging that pretty much any new sport or discipline could fall foul of it.

It’s long been known that compound has issues with universality, number four on the list above. Compound archery remains popular in North America and Europe, with smaller pockets of competitors, elite and recreational, spread unevenly around the rest of the world. Again much progress has been made by WA, and compound is now a full part (more or less) of all three major continental meets: the Pan-American Games, Asian Games, European Games. However archery was left out of the latest African Games and hasn’t returned to the Commonwealth Games, either.

It has also had issues with equality; both in terms of equal numbers of men and women competing, strength in depth, and differing levels of prize money, especially in North American tournaments; the only circuit on which compound archers are able to earn a professional living outside Korea.

It’s also not really hitting the ‘sexy youth wow’ factor that the sports industrial complex is forever looking for. Tom Dielen set it all out for Bow International magazine back in 2019, and it’s still worth a read to explain the very complex issues, which get solved at a glacial pace measured over decades.

Still, the biggest stumbling block of all might be the athlete cap, which it has been firmly re-iterated is carved in stone at 10,500 athletes, a measure enacted decades ago in order to help reduce the spiralling costs of hosting the Games and upheld ever since.. If archery added another 32 athletes – 16 men and 16 women – as an elite indoor compound competition, it seems increasingly likely it would have to lose 32 from the 128 in the recurve competition, which would absolutely change the character of the competition, completely.

Athletes compete in multiple disciplines in all the big summer Olympic sports: athletics, swimming, gymnastics, diving, cycling, etc. as well as things like fencing at the Paralympics. The IOC, sports authorities and successive organising committees must look at archery and say ‘why do you need different athletes to do something so similar?’.

The USA: great at compound, but it wasn’t enough

It’s also possible the indoor format simply didn’t look exciting enough; especially if there wasn’t a Vegas-style shootdown involved. It’s also possible it simply wasn’t different enough from recurve, especially with the requirement for more places. It’s possible the potential numbers (and thus income) were good, and growing, but not just big enough to push it over the line.

Even so, the case was good, so perhaps the real reason is something behind the scenes. It must be pretty galling for World Archery, considering the amount of work they have put in over many years to get to this point, only to face an almost blanket ban on new disciplines across the board for LA. This culminated in some of the most spectacular media numbers for the sport in Tokyo, compared to other sports. They are riding high in the pantheon. And now, there is not even an apparent pathway for introducing compound at Brisbane in 2032, either. What would need to change to make it happen?

It’s sad to say, but unfortunately compound is an insignificant part of a great global game of sport, money and politics. The big headline news this week is, of course, not the lack of compound, but the introduction of five new one-off Olympic sports for LA: baseball, cricket, lacrosse, flag football and squash. Baseball was part of Tokyo and is obviously popular in North America, while flag football – essentially, a junior version of American football – will presumably pick up some numbers. Lacrosse has an indigenous sports angle which you will be hearing plenty about in a few years time. And squash has been angling to get into the Olympics for many decades.

But cricket is the interesting one. Cricket is there in order to tap into new markets, specifically India. It’s news that hasn’t really sunk in collectively yet; but India became, in 2023, the world’s most populous country, surpassing China. As the Telegraph put it, “The broadcast rights alone are a financial no-brainer for the IOC.” It’s the biggest as yet fully-untapped market in the world. When India and Pakistan played in the last Cricket World Cup in England, 273 million people watched it. Given the explosion in digital reach in India since then, the game on Saturday probably had an ever bigger audience.

Getting India onside is often seen as a possible prelude to an Olympics in 2036 in India, which would be the first in the country.

All of which brings me to the Asian Games results earlier this month, where India massively dominated the compound competition in the sporting event that most people don’t realise is actually bigger than the Olympics.

The Asian Games has more athletes (11,420 to the Summer Olympics’ 10,500), more sports (40 to 33) and massively more events (481 to 339). The TV audience is more limited, but ever growing, at a time when both Summer and Winter Games are seeing audiences shrink in Europe and North America. (It’s also a kind of proxy for actual war between its major players, but that’s another article). The IOC have long been concerned that the Asian Games’ huge size and increasing power have been a threat to their glittering prize.

This year’s edition, in Hangzhou in China – held over for a year due to COVID – was a no-expense-spared expression of soft power and global dominance, and rumoured to have cost anything between $30 and $40 billion dollars. (For comparison, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics cost $13bn.) Read this missive from the state if you want to get a Great Leap Forward-esque flavour of the priorities.

Hangzhou main stadium

Most people have never ever heard of Hangzhou, even though it is now a city of 10 million people and has 1500 years of history. A friend of mine working at the event texted me: “Expect the Olympics in Hangzhou in your lifetime. Once they sort out the airport it’s a banker. No western city can compete.” You might want to start reading about the Asian Century, if you’re so inclined.

It’s not the first time India’s compounders have performed well at the competition, but last time out, the teams were firmly in second place behind Korea and Chinese Taipei. Under Sergio Pagni’s instruction, they have reached the top. The decimation of the vastly better-funded Korean compound team this year will be causing nightmares in Jincheon. (Pity poor Reo Wilde, brought in in February solely to win Asian Games golds. It’s now looking like his tenure might be very short.)

The five-gold shutout in Hangzhou, if it could be properly harnessed by the Archery Association Of India and the IOA – neither of whom are exactly known for excellence in governance – could provide a massive groundswell of support for the discipline, if it looks like the 2036 Games will be going to India and there’s a bunch of golds for the taking. It’s still a long, long way off, and the decision is not entirely in their hands. But if compound is ever to make the Olympics, it might just be India who gets it there.

Paris 2024: new pictograms out

10 February, 2023

The design committee behind Paris 2024 revealed on Wednesday 8 February 2023 the new sports pictograms for the Games, among several other ideas for the all-important visual presentation.

There are now only 18 months to go until the opening ceremony for Paris. The revelation of the pictograms (sounds like a prog-metal album track) is a key ritual stage in the gradual unboxing of ‘the look’; that much pored-over and fretted-about, committee-driven palaver that is the overall design and visual communication of each Games – and most importantly, what it’s going to look like on TV.

A few years ago I wrote a very long and detailed post discussing every pictogram for Olympic archery ever. You can read that here: Olympic archery pictograms through the ages. Here’s the full set of 47 for Paris:

via paris2024.org

Pictograms, according to the usual online source, are graphic symbols that convey meaning through pictorial resemblance to a physical object.” This can include things as simple as a warning sign, or something more artistic.

Pictograms in an Olympic context were first used in 1964, but by far the most famous and influential set was made by designer Otl Aicher in 1972 for the Munich Olympics, and reused again four years later. Aicher used a standard set of design elements for heads, arms and legs and in doing so, created design systems. The vast majority of Olympic pictograms since have been based in some way on Aicher’s work, and many other forms of signage too. Aicher literally changed the way we see the world.

some of Otl Aicher’s designs for Munich ’72

But the essential quality of pictograms, and the reason they were used in an Olympic context in the first place, is to communicate across language barriers. You could speak precisely no French (in this case) or English, but because of a little stick man pictogram and an arrow symbol (also a pictogram) you still know that the swimming is this way out of the Chardon Lagache subway station or this ticket is for badminton at 3pm. (Perhaps more importantly, it helps reassure.)

In the pre-internet age, these things were not unimportant. In 2023 the representative-at-a-glance tradition seems to finally have been retired.

These days, the pictogram is a recherche and mildly nostalgic Games design hurdle that nevertheless remains a very public part of the overall branding. Like most good design, you might not really ‘see’ it, but you will feel it.

So the latest designs were rolled out with a whizzy presentation and a lot of pontificating. I quite like the simplicity of the muted pastel blue shaded tones and the ‘paving stones’ grid effect, as shown above, even if it isn’t exactly earth-shatteringly new design-wise. The brand director, Julie Matikhine, expounded thus:

“Combining sport and style is the graphic signature of Paris 2024… Our visual concept is based on a play on words: ‘Sous les pavés, les Jeux’ [‘Under the paving stones, the Games’].” The line is a take on ‘Sous les pavés, la plage!’, one of the many inspirational and provocative slogans seen during the Paris protests of May 1968. “It’s a way to express our revolutionary attitude, but also a way to tell the full story. In France, in every city and village, our streets have paving stones. They’re a symbol of our heritage,” explains Matikhine. “These paving stones are the basis of our system. A paving stone is a square and using this simple shape we can build lots of things.”

I can’t help feeling that any self-respecting Mai ’68 rioter hearing that would have put a brick through the windows of the media room right then and there. It screams justification after the event. By the way, Mai 68 also had its own graphic design iconography, which they seem to be giving the swerve:

According to Inside The Games:

For what organisers claim will be the first time, each different venue will be able to customise the main branding scheme. For instance Marseille, the sailing venue and receiving city for the Olympic Flame, will have the same basic branding but with a different look to Paris.

This is, of course, complete bollocks, as any student of Olympic history who has seen any of the design work for Tallin 1980, the sailing venue for the Moscow Olympics, will tell you. ItG also quoted an unnamed organiser source saying:

“We are obsessed with the idea of innovation, creating experiences and emotions that have not been done before… So we bring together components that are not mixed before – it is a cultural revolution and it will offer something unexpected… The look of the Games is not bizarre – you have the impression that it has always been there.”

There was much more in this vein, but I’m really not sure I’d describe anything as a cultural revolution that wasn’t actually a cultural revolution, for all kinds of humanistic reasons. The main Games logo of Marianne – which I think is absolutely brilliant – is a nod to the French Revolution. So that’s three references to three different violent revolutionary epochs in history. Quite the introduction.

Anyway, the pictograms. They are apparently to be referred to as “blazons” (which translates directly as ‘coats of arms’) and compositionally they resemble a coat of arms and act as ‘badges of honour’ – whatever that means. Unlike the vast majority of pictograms in Olympic history, there is no figurative representation – no people. Rather, each pictogram is composed of three graphical elements: “an axis of symmetry; a depiction of the ground; and a representation of the sport that it illustrates.” as Creative Review put it. Sometimes the axis is overt, as with archery, and sometimes not.

Le Monde apparently cocked an eyebrow, and in translation, Matikhine revealed a little more:

The new visuals, however, have something to intrigue. Their clarity and their comprehension, first requirements of the device, is questionable.

“Some are less distinctive than others”, recognizes Julie Matikhine, brand director at Paris 2024. “But they help to arouse a form of curiosity. Once we have decoded the coat of arms, we understand it forever... On the side of the athletes, some were also a little disturbed. But they had a feeling of pride to belong to this country which takes things a little differently, like with mascots.


The mascots are terrible, but then they always are. More alarming is the need to ‘decode’. Why does the public have to decode it? (Hope I’ve translated that right). And she kind of admits that some aren’t very good? And the athletes didn’t like them?

Let’s look at what they have done for archery.

This is the full logo in it’s ‘digital square’ format with the fruitily retro and playful deco-ish sans-serif font that I like a lot. There is also a handy circular version for your socials. Very thoughtful.

Helpfully, Paris 2024 chose the archery pictogram to break down how it has put them together:

arrow and a bow, gotcha
three less rings on that roundel would be a bit more ‘distinctive’, chum

All above images copyright paris2024.org

Overall, I’m quite enjoying the archery one, but ‘our thing’ has been one of the easier design challenges for Olympic pictogram designers over the decades. Pointy thing, round thing, curvy thing, someone pulling a bow back. Done. Everyone knows what it looks like. Trying to cram in the five sports of the quadrennial Olympic afterthought that is modern pentathlon? Much more tricky. It does indeed look like a coat of arms. I like the multitude of rings, which adds a kind of historic inexactitude, such as hinted at on this pretty design from the retro-minded BDDW Club. (Read more about them here).

So the designers have essentially exchanged the instant recognition of oh right that’s basketball innit for a more abstract shorthand that will no doubt look better on posters and in TV trails. They also clearly don’t work at small sizes, which is usually a key design constraint.

The problem is, that according to my dictionary, and the Olympic tradition…. these aren’t actually pictograms. This was indeed confirmed at the launch by Paris 2024 president Tony Estanguet, who said this: “Not so much a pictogram as a blazon, a coat of arms, so that we can all be proud of the sports we are hosting.” Righto.

They are better seen as design elements, elements for a wider branding, with a little hint of the individual sport thrown in.


There isn’t one. Unlike for the last four pairs of Games, Paralympic archery shares the same pictogram with the Olympics. There is no separate pictogram for para-archery – as there was in Beijing, London, Rio and Tokyo. A total of eight para-sports share the same pictogram with their Olympic cousins. No one has decided to explain why. Perhaps they got stuck, or ran out of time. It happens.

This doesn’t seem consistently applied. For example, track cycling (Olympics) and track cycling (Paralympics) have separate pictograms, with the para version showing the tandem bikes which are now only used in VI cycling – most of the events are on regular/modified bikes. That doesn’t seem too distinctively or iconically different, but OK.

There’s been a suggestion that reusing the logos is a nod towards reducing the costs and complexity of the Games. That’s all good, but as a design exercise, it’s strange and clunky.

OK, so archery kinda works. What about the others?


A wider problem with the Paris pictograms is that some clearly work vastly better than others as an artistic and representative exercise. They career about between representation, abstraction, and dynamism. The human brain will always try to see patterns and representation. It’s what helps us make sense of the world.

The more traditional one for badminton manages to combine the axis idea with a bit of wit and energy, and maybe a slight nod to constructivism:


The one for breaking, that new and forever controversial addition to Paris 2024, includes a moving record. It’s a little retro for a supposedly modern sport, but it does kinda work. Very 80s.


The pictogram for swimming, with its ripples and its costumes continues the playful, French, and feminine themes already established elsewhere, and it brings across an essence of water and movement. Yeah, that’s good.



The boxing one, which kinda borrows an element from the 1968 set for the Mexico Olympics, doesn’t say boxing nearly as neatly as its multiple predecessors, which use either the gloves or more commonly a little stick-man pugilist. There’s an odd collision of styles, a bit like a robot’s bloodshot eye with a 1960s Batman cartoon fight happening in front. Hmmm. But it gets worse.


The skateboarding one is just weird. It looks like a Freemasonic symbol that someone has tried to put a couple of sticking plasters over.


Shooting? I’d say that was sailing if you asked me. In this case, the representative symbol has trumped the symmetrical construction, for me at least. (I’d guess that some committee was probably paranoid about having a representation of a gun on there, like most of its picto-predecessors, but pent includes one). Compared to the others, it lacks energy. Weak.

nice shootin’, Tex

But the worst one of all the major sports is artistic gymnastics. You can see what they’ve tried to do – cram in floor and beam and so on, but it doesn’t really work as an abstraction and it’s ghastly as a representation. There’s one beam out there in that arena – not two. The rings aren’t set up like that, pal, that bit looks like an unfinished Olympic logo.

But the beams-as-a-frame make it look like something; a brutalist football stadium, or a Chinese puzzle box, or something else. It doesn’t say ‘gymnastics’. It doesn’t say anything about the essence of gymnastics. It doesn’t look like a coat of arms. It looks like a first attempt. It’s just not good enough.

gymnastics… apparently

To be fair, it’s difficult to make all 47 pictograms brilliant. Some sports will always be harder than others to make it work. And because there is more of a focus on the athletes rather than the sports these days, in our personality-driven age of TV packageable sports, I was sure that the little figurative stick man pictograms we’re all so used to and able to relate to would be around forever.

Unfortunately, a set concentrating on the sports has been done, utterly brilliantly, more than half a century ago in Mexico. The designs for 1968 remain the reference work, and none of these symmetrical Parisian gadabouts come remotely close:

pictograms for the Mexico ’68 Olympics

Just look at them. The clarity. The economy. The haiku-like simplicity. The beautiful soft colours. The reused design elements. Childlike, but in the best way, with that sense of endlessness. It’s just perfect. It’s never been surpassed. It probably never will be.

(The soft, chewy squares of Mexico inspired this jelly-babies set from the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, created by schoolchildren, which I also love for its playfulness and joie-de-vivre – a French quality notably missing from the Paris branding so far. For all the focus on youth at the IOC, this is a stern, adult take.)

The Mexico pictograms were essentially made by a handful of people in a room, and then apparently just delivered to the printers. They weren’t pushed through the grimbong of design competitions, matey contractual arrangements and endless committees. They weren’t subject to the back-and-forthing between international federations and broadcasting and myriad competing demands that the Greatest Show On Earth now asks.

So we have a good pictogram for archery, and a lot of rubbish ones for many other sports. Oh well. The Paralympic pictograms have apparently been given almost no thought at all, with several apparently getting the design brief ‘do the Olympic coat-of-arms thing but shoehorn a wheelchair in there. Yeah, one, two, doesn’t matter.’ Confused and messy.


Overall, I get the attitude though. The thing is, the entire premise was getting stale. The little stick men have pulled their shift, we don’t need them quite as much, let’s do something different. Let’s do something radical. Great. I’m actually all for radical.

After the relatively conservative and sedentary designs for Tokyo, which took almost no risks whatsoever – especially after a logo debacle so catastrophic that no-one could quite believe a country like Japan could have even produced it – pushing the concept a bit further and doing something more modern and abstract was a good call.

However, I’m not so sure the execution of this idea has been pushed hard enough. At small sizes and collectively, they just look like a baffling mess of squished insects.

At full size they act like a coat of arms should; sitting on the wall, stuck in time. They don’t sing. They don’t move. That’s not what sport is about.

Is each individual design really the best it could be? Has the whole concept been iterated, slept on, interrogated? Why isn’t it hitting me in the gut and saying: this, this is right ? So many of them look like the first thing that came to mind (I did wonder if they’d done it alphabetically, spent a few days getting archery right, working their way through, and wrestling got ten minutes the night before the deadline.)

It’s not been detailed yet, but perhaps this designs will look better in video, in live graphics, transformed, reconstructed, whatever. Perhaps something more interesting is to come. For me, it won’t be dethroning Mexico ’68 from my pictogram top-of-the-pops this time.


Tokyo: 21 days to go

1 July, 2021

Three weeks until the ranking round begins (oh, and a little something called the opening ceremony) – time for a round up of everything that has appeared in the last week.

Pics via KAA

The KAA shared photos of the training venue they have set up at the national Olympic sport centre in Jincheon. As with several previous Olympics they have built a kind of facsimile of the finals arena for their charges to train on. The enormous expense this must have entailed gives an idea of the resources that go into protecting the biggest South Korean Olympic medal ‘banker’ of all. It obviously makes for good, very visual publicity for the NOC as well.

Although I was also wondering: is it really worth it? If you’re that good, shouldn’t you be able to turn up to any field and deliver the goods? I guess this piece of theatre has worked so far, so they are hoping it will work again. And they can practice against each other; let’s face it, the chances of them having to compete against each other in the last three rounds are pretty high. This year, they seem to have skipped the traditional ‘training in a baseball stadium‘ which characterised previous buildups. Maybe they’ve avoided some of the more tedious publicity work this time round.

Did you know you can donate directly to help Japanese athletes? If you use Visa, they’ll match it. I suppose I wasn’t expecting Japanese sports to be funded quite so directly.

Perhaps more NOCs should have the digital begging bowl out. Over at Team GB, they seem to prefer you buy something from the gift shop. I mean, these T-shirts are pretty boss:

They also have an ‘Archery’ T-shirt, with an extremely abstract design on the front. I guess it’s supposed to be a sight:

Despite a high-profile announcement re: spectators – the plan was to cap venue attendance at 50% of capacity or 10,000 – whichever is the greater – there now seems to still be a threat of holding the whole thing behind closed doors. The impact on archery wouldn’t be too great, the impact on the athletics stadium (capacity 68,000) will be enormous.

There will apparently be a final decision on Monday. This is on the back of mixed news re: COVID in Japan. A vaccination programme has finally started gaining momentum, although the famed ‘Delta variant’ seems to be going around already. Once it’s in, it’s not getting out. The worrying case of an athlete from Uganda testing positive on arrival in Japan, after apparently passing a COVID test and being fully vaccinated, is either an outlier or a worrying harbinger of what is to come in the next few weeks, as 60,000 or so athletes, journos, technicians, broadcasters, judges, coaches and federation wonks begin to descend on Tokyo. This bell-end isn’t helping, either. There was also some more news about beer and condoms.

Yahoo News! shared a piece detailing the privations that journalists will have to face when reporting from Tokyo; broadly, you’re not allowed to go anywhere or do anything at all, on pain of having your accreditation revoked and/or being thrown out of the country – not even walking. This will be enforced by a tracker app on your phone:

Daniel Castro has been selected for the single men’s spot for Spain. A lot of people thought that Pablo Acha would be going, as he is, y’know, the new European Champion, but apparently the selection was based on World Cup placings. Castro paid a lengthy tribute to Acha, and several other people on Facebook, which is a lovely read in translation.

Deepika Kumari (above, right) became the world recurve number one after her triple medal haul in Tokyo – for the first time since 2013. She takes over the number one spot from Lisa Barbelin, who had held it for, like, a month after her Euros triumph. She took over from Kang Chae Young, who has been there for a couple of years, I understand. World Archery have now added continental rankings as well. (This photo, taken by Dean for World Archery, is one of my favourites of the year.)

TeamGB are sending a 13-year-old to Tokyo, amid more rumblings about just how many less medals GB will be winning overall, after the record-breaking haul from Rio. There will actually be a slight overall increase in funding for the next cycle.

There has been a softening of the policy that forbade athletes to take young children “when necessary” to Tokyo. This is of course far too late to help the relevant parents and children, including Naomi Folkard, who had already made extensive plans:

National Olympic kits are being revealed, if they haven’t been already. I usually enjoy the quadrennial fashion sniping – and the apparently post-ironic Canadian kit needs discussing – but there’s something I really like about the South African kit. It looks so casual, and so.. normcore. It represents what a lot of us have been doing for a year: lounging around. It doesn’t feel the need for a grandiose national statement. It’s very on brand for right now.

More news next week.

Tokyo 2020: 45 days to go

7 June, 2021

It’s 45 days to go before one of the strangest and most beleaguered Olympic Games of our lifetimes takes place.

For 95.5 percent of us, across the globe, watching it on TV is the only way we will ever experience it; just half a percent of the Olympic audience will ever see an Olympic event live. The TV audience is paramount, and the broadcasters have the final say on all kinds of things to do with the Summer and Winter Games.

For many people watching; will it be very different? With the camera angles changed to de-emphasise just how few people are in the venues (exactly how many will be there is still unclear), and crowd noise undoubtedly dubbed on, it will be, for many people, a very similar experience.

Pic via https://news.abs-cbn.com/

The revenue generated from selling the TV rights funds the IOC, and (as the IOC very much like to point out) funds all kinds of Olympic sports too, including much of the operating budget of World Archery and many other national and international federations. Much of the Olympic sporting landscape in the modern era relies on this revenue, and ultimately the Olympics supports an ecosystem hundreds of thousands of jobs worldwide.

I don’t need to recount the events of the last 16 or so months; they have impacted every single one of us. The rescheduled Summer Olympics, delayed from 2020, were intended to be held in a world that had brought the COVID pandemic under control. When they were postponed, there was an optimism that Tokyo 2020 would go ahead in some kind of relative ‘normality’. Of course, that’s not the case. The Western world is a shifting mess of lockdowns, vaccination programs, third, fourth and fifth waves of variant viruses, quarantine procedures, strained public health systems, and all the rest that the coronavirus has dragged along with it on its never-ending journey around the well-connected world.

The Olympics ultimately relies on certainty; it’s an (almost) immovable feast. The incredulous full-steam-ahead response as the virus took hold in spring last year was only stopped by the announcement that many major nations would officially not send a squad, beginning the snowball process that led to postponement.

The IOC had good reason to be confident, apparently, the start time of an Olympic event has never moved before, and it has been 76 years since the last cancellation, due to war in 1944. Viruses had threatened before, and been found wanting.

The modern Games is now so big and so complicated and so expensive partly because it is has to begin on a particular date. Most large public projects are not delivered on schedule. The Olympics is, and if one aspect of it is not on track, the only solution is to throw immense amounts of resources at it until it is. Many aspects of Rio 2016, not helped by major budget problems and a general Brazilian disposition to do things at the last minute, were barely finished in time. (The 2016 Paralympics almost didn’t take place at all.)

As of this writing, a narrative has developed in the press that the Japanese government and the IOC are determined to press on with the Games in the teeth of a uncertain pandemic and hugely negative public opinion. Most people have cited a a poll (originally commissioned by newspaper Kyodo News) which showed that 35.3% of people were in favour of cancelling it, and 44.8% were in favour of postponing it once more. (Never mind that postponing it again has been categorically ruled out by all as politically, logistically, and financially impossible.)

This has been conflated by several other media outlets as ‘80% of the Japanese public want Games cancelled.’ Public opinion not being behind the Games beforehand is a distinct feature of the recent Olympic landscape, London 2012 being a prime example. Opinion polls are not a good guide to Olympic futures.

Much of the focus in the Japanese press is the claim that the 60,000 or so athletes, journalists, technicians, broadcasters, judges, coaches and federation people pitching up will be bringing a bunch of coronavirus variants to their islands, turning the Olympics into a superspreader event. Incidentally, this number of ‘essential personnel’ is down from the normal Olympic overseas attendance of around 180,000 – which gives you an idea of just how many hangers-on there normally are.

None of these articles acknowledge the extensive steps being taken to specifically make sure that this is not the case, as detailed in the much-vaunted (but under-promoted) IOC ‘playbooks‘ for all attendees. No one going will be admitted into Japan if they haven’t had two doctor-certified negative COVID tests in the preceding three days. No one going will be allowed to go sightseeing, use public transport, go into a bar or a restaurant, or indeed, do anything apart from go between hotel and venue to work or compete (denied of all overseas revenue, Tokyo’s hoteliers and restauranteurs are unsurprisingly furious and are adding to the cancellation chorus).

Essentially, the Olympics will become – as far as possible – its own bubble, completely separate from the Japanese public. This has upset many commentators, who point out that the spirit of the Games is best displayed when the circus connects directly with the public. They are mostly right. One of my favourite stories from London 2012 involved a gold medallist taking the Underground on his way out to town. Some of the more myopic takes whine that well-heeled tourists won’t be able to spend money at the gift shop, or superstar athletes won’t be able to get their selfies.

Rio fan zone. Probably be less of this going on.

The IOC hasn’t covered itself in glory here; sending John Coates, one of its blunter instruments, out to announce that the Games could be held even if Japan was under a state of emergency, which only ramped up the chorus to get rid of it. It seems like a lot of the gung-ho rhetoric from all participants is to not let a single crack appear that might offer the ‘let’s-cancel-it’ gang a way in.

Also, none of the current press articles are also calling for the cancellation of the PGA tour, or Wimbledon, or the football Euros, or the Tour de France, or any of the many other sporting events due to take place this summer. None of them points out the large number of sporting events that have already taken place without incident (none of which is nearly as complex as an Olympics, of course).

But voices as loud as the New York Times have decided to floridly jump on the bandwagon anyway: “The I.O.C. oversees the most pervasive yet least accountable sport infrastructure in the world. The group appears to have fallen under the spell of its own congenital impunity. Pressing ahead with the Olympics risks drinking poison to quench our thirst for sport. The possibility of a superspreader catastrophe is not worth it for an optional sporting spectacle.”

Perhaps the most bitter take has come from Japanese Olympic Committee member Kaori Yamaguchi, who has weighed in that Japan been “cornered” into staging the Olympic and Paralympics – even as she conceded that they would be going ahead:

“Were not the Olympics supposed to be a festival of peace? … It begins with tenaciously engaging in dialogue with people who hold diverse views. If we abandon this process, then the Olympics have no meaning.”

“The opposite of peace is a hard-line, stubborn approach based on the view that ‘people may be saying all kinds of things, but once the Olympics start it’ll be fine. What will these Olympics be for and for whom?”

“I believe we have already missed the opportunity to cancel. It would require too much energy to make and follow through with such a decision. We have been cornered into a situation where we cannot even stop now.”

“We are damned if we do, and damned if we do not.”

The problem is that “engaging in dialogue with people who hold diverse views.” is a very reasonable thing to do during the bidding and planning phase of a Games. When the chips are down and you’ve got to execute the operational phase, that’s exactly what you don’t do. It’s such an immense and complicated thing, involving such Brobdingnagian logistics and hundreds of thousands of people, it’s either go or no-go. You’re either helping it to be a safe, successful event, or you’re not.

The big circus that everybody enjoys on their TV every two or four years comes about because of the boring stuff involving spreadsheets and trucks and warehouses and accountants and shipping manifests and scaffolders and electricians and technicians and builders which takes seven years to organise. The die is cast for Tokyo. It’s either fully underway, or not at all. It can’t stop for a friendly chat.

So it’s happening. Personally, I believe it will be safe; not being a public health expert, luckily I don’t have to stake my reputation on it. There are real risks and I don’t want to play down the seriousness of any of them.

But Yamaguchi is right about one thing; in the Faustian pact that the Japanese government has got itself into, something will be missing from the whole thing: who will these Olympics be for?

With just a few weeks to go in Rio, the prediction from all sides was that it would be a disaster, with the blame laid at Brazil’s door. In the end, despite a couple of small mishaps, the Games went ahead as planned, and the TV audiences were healthy. (A huge number of volunteers quit in Rio as well, same as is happening now.) But this situation feels different. It is not business as usual. If the IOC and the Japanese don’t get this absolutely right, it risks the entire circus going into long-term decline, if audiences are turned off.

An announcement was made this week about the podiums, part of the fully overshadowed publicity buildup. A tiny corner of the Olympic design world, made of recycled plastics, it was a representation of the minimalist (if conservative) design style that has characterised these Games, long before coronavirus upended everything. I think they are smart and modern and forward-looking, and normally I love this kind of design minutiae that adds to the flavour of the whole dish. But recycled podiums are not what is needed right now.

What is needed right now is to win the hearts and minds of the Japanese and wider public, indeed the whole world. To convince people that they are worth doing. This is going to take some humility on behalf of the IOC and some brilliant PR from the Japanese government. Neither has shown a great deal of aptitude for either of these recently. And there’s only a month and a half left.

Olympics: looking forward and back

11 August, 2020

People once spoke of a forty year Olympic curse. In 1940 Japan was due to host the Summer and Winter Games in Tokyo and Sapporo respectively; both were cancelled due to World War Two. In 1980, the Moscow Games were hit with mass boycotts due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Over 66 countries refused to attend, including the USA and China.

In 2020… well, I’m sure you’re fully aware of what has happened in 2020 so far. The entire Western world has been completely upended and no one is yet sure of anything much at this writing. In early April, the Tokyo Games were suspended for almost exactly a year, the first time in history an Olympic competition has ever not started on time. Everyone involved, from the IOC to the Japanese government to the organising committee to the sport federations is currently 100% on message and behind the Games starting as re-planned in July 2021.

As many people have noted, it’s not entirely as simple as that. Some have suggested that without a widely available vaccine, the Games will simply have to be cancelled – it would be impossible to gather that many people from all over the world safely. While it’s likely that many of the athletes would be willing to take that chance, and national Olympic committees would be sure to test anyone going – the spectators are a different matter entirely.

It seems to have been made abundantly clear that it is ‘2021 or bust’, there will be no further delay. Indeed, the current plan seems to be ‘we’re doing it, corona or no corona’, with a notably more bullish tone in recent weeks.

The countdown clock reset a few months ago.

Cancelling the Games still seems almost unthinkable – although postponing them seemed almost equally unthinkable just a few months ago. The immense sunk costs – $25 billion or more, by some estimates – without any revenue returning would cripple the Japanese economy further, and would be a catastrophic loss of face for the country. The Summer Olympics is also the financial engine that keeps tens of thousands of people employed worldwide, and funds most of the operations of the international federations (such as World Archery) too. The Winter Olympics, now following the Summer Games by just six months, might go too.

Some have again suggested that the Games will be held behind closed doors, which would allow the crucial TV coverage to continue. European football matches are currently being held and televised with added crowd noise, it’s not impossible we could see the same next year too.

For all the talk about the essential Games atmosphere, it should be remembered that 99.5% of the Olympic audience will only ever see an Olympic event on television in their lifetime, and many aspects of the Games are now ultimately subordinate to the demands of television, because of the revenue it generates.

Tokyo Test Event. Pic courtesy World Archery

Or perhaps the doors will be ‘semi-closed’; restricted to Tokyo citizens only to reduce travel, or only spectators that can prove they are coronavirus-free – or both.

There may be further knock-on effects too, related to the mass postponement of major events this year to a crammed-busy 2021. Some have suggested that Paris 2024 might be delayed a year too. As now seems usual in the age of coronavirus: change is the only thing that seems certain.


Many archery Olympians – or due-to-be Olympians – have welcomed the year’s delay. For some former medallists, such as Lisa Unruh and Michele Frangilli, who are both recovering from shoulder surgery, the postponement gives them another chance of an Olympic cap which would otherwise be in doubt. For the major national sides such as France and Turkey who are still without an Olympic spot, it may test the coaching and psychology setups to the limit.

David Pasqualucci and Areneo David, Rio callroom, August 2016

Many national teams have completely restarted their selection procedures for 2021, including Korea, the biggest national fish of all – which means that former champions Ki Bo Bae and Chang Hye Jin, both of whom had fallen out of the process last year, might just be able to make another Games, and who knows, maybe even medal.

Some teams in well-isolated facilities have managed to continue shooting and training throughout the pandemic; while others have had to work at home. One thing is certain, with no more international outdoor competition this year, and the indoor calendar in serious doubt too, it will be whoever keeps their head and stays coolest that will thrive when the build-up competitions and qualifiers restart next year.

USA Olympian Mackenzie Brown was clear about what lay in front of her. “I am completely behind this decision to postpone the Games. I believe to be in line with the Olympic spirit. We are in crazy times right now and it’s difficult to keep very optimistic, but I’ve been training for four years for my dreams and I will continue to train and be ready at any moment to put on my best performance. It’s hard to wait for the next competition, but it’s what I was born to do, in my opinion, and I will continue to push on.”

As for what will happen next year: Korea still remain favourites, probably, for all five gold medals available, although the results over the last year or two give ever more pause for thought as to the possibilities. The Taipei challenge is ever stronger, but we all said that last time around. But you feel the women’s team victory at the World Championships has wedged open a door, psychologically at least. The team events will likely be won, or lost, inside someone’s head.

It would be great for the sport to see a less-fancied but dangerous archery nation – am thinking Kazakhstan, Indonesia, or Vietnam – push through and make a podium. It also seems like there will be a lot of veterans out representing next year; it would also be fantastic to see an older archer find the sixth gear and take a prize.

Rio 2016

Taipei men practice in the Sambodromo, July 2016

The last Summer Games to be held, despite much doomsaying and a handful of hair-raising incidents, in the end went off almost without a hitch. However it was held in an atmosphere of empty stadiums amid a populace who almost (but not quite) seemed to turn their backs on the competition. Rio was a city mired with debt problems and inequality, and in a country going through political turmoil and a murderous recession – and the Olympic movement isn’t really part of the collective consciousness in Brazil. (Interestingly, the Paralympics in Rio were far better attended than the Olympics; a combination of dirt-cheap tickets and increasing familiarity saw both weekends in the main Olympic Park sell out).

Few host cities on Earth could have lived up to 2012. London sold out almost every ticket across the Games, which no Olympics has ever got close to before, and may never again. In Rio, the threat of Zika and crime scared off more casual tourists, whatever the milder reality might have been. When even the athletics session for Usain Bolt running the 100m, an event watched by a total of two billion people in 2012, failed to sell out on the ground, you know something is very wrong. Selling tickets won’t, at least, be a problem in Olympics-mad Japan next year.

When Rio was awarded the Games in 2009, on a grand scale it seemed like a genuinely brilliant idea. The economy was going through the roof. Oil was at record highs. It fit past Olympic narratives of a national power thrusting fully into the world after a long period in the wilderness; Tokyo 1964, a modern industrial nation emerging from losing a war, and similar tales at Seoul in 1988 and Barcelona in 1992. Everybody wanted it to work. Brazil, with all its extraordinary natural advantages and increasing financial clout, finally taking a place at the forefront of the modern world with a Rio Olympics as a catalyst.

‘Nail house’, the last remaining of a favela cleared to build the Olympic Park, with the MPC and the new Marriott hotel in the background.

But there’s a grim proverb popular over there: “Brazil is the country of the future, and always will be.” It didn’t quite happen as everyone might have hoped, and the Rio Games perhaps has destroyed the narrative that the Olympics is a globally transformative power. Politicians and taxpayers are much more wary, and in the last decade or so dozens of nascent bids around the world for multi-sport Games have never got past a local mayor or an opinion poll. The Winter Olympics is an increasingly difficult sell; the expense versus the return looks even less attractive than the Summer Games.

A positive outcome?

The next two editions of the summer Games, in Paris 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028, seem likely to be the last of the same old model; the Games in one city, one vastly expensive expression of soft Western power. The double award is a testament to the IOC’s flexibility in keeping the model alive. After that, the Games will either move to a multi-city model or you’ll likely only be seeing it in places with autocratic governments. Possibly both.

The past decade has been a difficult time for the Olympic movement. It’s been difficult to be positive about much in 2020, but if the coronavirus era comes to a close next year, via ‘herd immunity’ or a vaccine or both, a full-steam ahead Tokyo Games might be a genuine collective moment for the world, that will be facing plenty of other existential problems over the next decades. It might even become the defining moment for the Olympic movement. It could be the greatest Games ever.

Could it?

Tokyo 2021: not out of the woods yet

13 April, 2020

From a public perspective, the choice was simple and obvious: postpone the Tokyo Olympics until 2021, in the face of global pandemic. Fine. Just hold it next year. For everyone involved in the Olympic movement, the problems were only just beginning.

Shortly before Easter, there was an alarming message from Toshiro Muto, the chief executive of Tokyo 2020, saying that the big show was still not guaranteed for next year. Perhaps he was reacting to the chaotic political reaction to the COVID-19 wave that seems to have finally hit Japan, but it was still surprisingly gloomy.

“I don’t think anyone would be able to say if it is going to be possible to get [the pandemic] under control by next July or not,” Muto said on Friday 10th April. “We’re certainly not in a position to give a clear answer.” A state of emergency has recently been declared in the country, and Japan is about to officially enter a recession.

We are of course firmly in uncharted territory. No Olympics in history has ever been postponed before, and the Olympics has never been larger or more complicated, against a backdrop of an ever-evolving global pandemic that is still not fully understood. Indeed, the start time of an Olympic event has apparently never moved before.

The global sports calendar has collapsed, with the biggest questions over further potential waves of coronavirus, and whether a vaccine will be ready in time for July 2021 – neither of which is answerable at the moment. Some have questioned whether the Paralympics will go ahead as re-planned next year. Dick Pound, the IOC’s media blunt instrument, even started flagging that Beijing 2022 might be under threat. It’s become a cliche, but we are in totally unprecedented times – for sport, and the world.

^ Choi Misun (KOR) at the Rio Olympics, 2016

2021: WHY JULY?

After trying to put the decision off as long as possible, in the end, behind closed doors, there was enough agreement to hold it in the same July / August slot as before – with just a hint of rancour between the organising committee and the IOC. This frustrated a briefly nascent movement trying to push for either an October start or a spring Games. Both would bring logistical hurdles, and an autumn start crosses into Japan’s typhoon season. Both would also cut across some of the sporting calendar, but crucially avoid the worst of the summer heat and humidity in Japan; already casting a large potential shadow, with summer temperatures easily able to hit a murderous 41°C (106°F). The weather is bad enough that the marathon had already been forced to move to Sapporo following the sporting debacle in Doha last year.

But in the end, the interests of the broadcasters prevailed. The networks pay billions of dollars for broadcasting rights in that summer slot when the global sports calendar is otherwise quiet, thus increasing the chances of capturing a bigger audience.

Indeed, back in 2012, the IOC actually stipulated that bidders for 2020 need to hold the event between July 15 and Aug 31. The city of Doha offered to host the 2020 Games in October because of the oppressive summer heat in Qatar; published feedback from their unsuccessful bid indicated that that was a non-starter from the point of view of the broadcasters.

It wasn’t always like this. When Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics back in 1964, they were held in October. The same thing happened in Mexico in 1968. But that was in an era where the attitude towards TV coverage was something like: “if you want to show it, please turn up with your cameras.” An exception was also made for Sydney in 2000, who held the Games in the last two weeks of September.

Now, the TV broadcasters are all powerful. As Neal Pilson, the former president of CBS Sports, which broadcast the Games in the USA in the 1990s put it to Reuters: “The Summer Olympics are simply of less value if held in October because of pre-existing program commitments for sports.”


Delaying the Games is going to cost a lot of money, and quite who is going to pay for it hasn’t been settled in detail yet.

The Games were originally costed at $12.6 billion, in US dollars. These things being what they are, the cost has more than doubled to around $26bn, according to an audit last year. All but around $6bn of that is public money. Estimates of the cost of delaying vary between $2bn and $6bn dollars, which will again have to be borne by Tokyo’s taxpayers. The IOC is also on the hook for “several hundred million dollars” of its own costs according to Thomas Bach, the IOC president, speaking to a German newspaper – shortly before he dodged direct questions about further postponement and the status of Russia in the event.

There are costs at almost every stage; the biggest of which are staff and venues. The staff include foreign and local workers, many seconded from the Tokyo Metropolitan government, all of which only had contracts until the end of September. All the venues and the athletes village had legacy plans which will have to be extended by force majeure if necessary, at immense cost. Thousands of tons of branding, infrastructure and equipment will have to be stored for another year. Suppliers will want paying.

The Tokyo 2020 President, former Prime Minister Yoshirō Mori warned the international federations (the governing bodies of each sport, such as World Archery) that they will be on the hook for some of it. In the best traditions of ultra-polite, obscurantist language, he said: “Deciding who will bear these costs and how it will be done will be a major challenge.”

^ Rio 2016, fan village

The immense amounts of cash from broadcasters and sponsors for each Games is funnelled through the IOC, which makes a contribution to the operating costs of the organising committee. At the end of each Games, the rest of the money gets split up between the international federations, and national Olympic committees, as well as the IPC, WADA, and various UN projects. The IOC makes great show of the fact that 90% of the Games profits head back out the door to fund sport and humanitarian projects worldwide. After the last summer outing in Rio 2016, the federations received $520 million between them.

Clearly, the IOC’s contribution to Tokyo’s costs in this case will end up being be higher, and Mori was hinting that the pot would be smaller after the Games finally happen in 2021 – which means that the international federations will have a budget headache for the next Olympic cycle. Essentially, they will be partially paying for a delay which wasn’t their fault.

So the federations, expecting a large chunk of their operating budget for the next four years this autumn, already have a problem on their hands. With many of them based in Lausanne, the Swiss government has apparently come up with some bailout measures; unsurprisingly wanting to keep one of their more powerful financial engines turning. But further downstream, national Olympic committees and many precariously-funded national federations will likely be in significant trouble. With the world clearly heading for depression, corporate sponsor budgets for sport will start to dry up.

There are other financial issues; contracts for sponsorship by big ‘gold partner’ corporations such as Toyota only run until the end of the 2020 calendar year. They will be under pressure to extend these contracts, but some, looking at a huge downturn in business and fearing a major global depression, may start pleading poverty. Who will make up the shortfall? Tokyo hotels, holding on to the prospect of a windfall this summer, are already going out of business. Will there be enough room for the millions descending on the city next year?


Two big sub-Olympic competitions have had to postpone due to proximity to the big dance. The World Games, due to be held in Alabama in July 2021, has been pushed back a year. The World Athletics Championships, due to be held in Eugene, Oregon also in July next year, have similarly been pushed back a year. Most other sports (including archery) also hold their world championships in Olympic off-years. It seems likely that more 2021 events will see delays, adjustments, or even outright cancellations.

The World Masters Games were due to be held in Kansai, Japan in May 2021, and supposedly, sets of equipment and chunks of infrastructure from Tokyo 2020 were earmarked for use in the competition. The WMG is a huge tourism cash cow, but in a different city and run by a different government. The organisers are currently keeping tight-lipped about what will happen, but it is clear the event may be under threat – even if the Japanese federal government will be loathe to have a second major event on home turf cancelled. It’s difficult to predict what will happen here, but total cancellation would look terrible for all kinds of reasons.


There are dozens of issues, major and minor, to solve in fields as diverse as qualification, venues, volunteers, anti-doping and broadcasting. Age limits have resulted in a ruling that “next year’s” gymnasts (turning 16) will be eligible, and FIFA is expected to approve a move which will see the upper age-limit for the men’s football raised from 23 to 24 for the 2021 event. Issues of selection get ever more granular: as Bow International pointed out at the end of March, some nations had already publicly selected archery teams for their confirmed national spots. Will they honour those selections a year on?

Tom Dielen, the World Archery secretary-general was interviewed for the Around The Rings podcast on the future problems facing him. He mentioned that one of the confirmed Paralympic judges was within the age limit for 2020, but not for 2021. Should they make an exception? There were further issues with Paralympic athletes because of their invariably more complex needs.

Dielen reiterated that national governing bodies would be given two months notice or more of competition rescheduling or cancellation. He also mentioned that continental events might be easier to organise than international events, depending on the spread of the virus and the situation with air travel.

Archery around the world has stopped, and it is unclear of this writing exactly when it will restart. As the post-COVID-19 world gradually emerges over the next few months, it seems that everybody, including sports will have to continue thinking about social distancing for some time. As an outdoor sport, archery seems like it will have an easier time than some adjusting to the new normal, particularly with the sport’s deep commitment to camaraderie. Rules can be changed. Lines can be re-spaced.


^ Poster for the cancelled 1940 Olympics. Source: Wikipedia

From a glance at the IOC’s blandly business-as-usual website, you’d think everything was just fine and dandy. You may not have noticed, with everything else going on, but the Olympic Flame was officially rekindled in Olympia in March and transported to Japan, where it is currently (and incongruously) being held in a ‘secret location’, to ensure crowds don’t gather in front of it.

Several media outlets criticised Thomas Bach, the IOC president, for proceeding with this ritual bit of Olympic arcana, a demonstration of the IOC’s insistence that the show must go on against a backdrop of rising deaths all over the world. In the meantime, the Russian sports minister is claiming that the anti-doping ban being served by hundreds of Russian athletes should be overturned against the current chaos, a call that could be described as opportunistic – at best.

With the Russian question remaining unsolved, Bach will be facing by far the toughest challenge of his presidential career over the next 18 months. He is also up for election in 2021; he has not officially confirmed his candidacy, but it would be a surprise if he did not run again. No real successor has yet emerged, but Bach is not universally liked in Lausanne and it is not impossible one could appear, especially if things start going south. (The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is also apparently up for re-election in 2021, and you feel they probably wish they weren’t.)

But it seems that with enough political and cultural will in Japan, all these problems are surmountable; in a coming depression, holding on to the vast and already-sunk costs with the prospect of a payoff down the road becomes even more important. Perhaps, after each country completes its three months (or so) of lockdown and slowly relaxes other containment measures, something like normality will start approaching again by the summer. Perhaps. The great fear is another wave of virus this time next year; some have even suggested that without an available vaccine against COVID-19, the Games simply cannot go ahead.

More widely, the summer Olympics is the single genuinely global event, and it would be be fitting, perhaps even vital for humanity to hold it at the end of a worldwide crisis.

But one thing is certain: there’s a lot of ground to cover before we can be absolutely sure of seeing an opening ceremony in Shinjuku on the 23rd of July, 2021.

Olympic matchboxes

3 April, 2019

As a companion to the evergreen Olympic archery pictograms piece I published a few years ago and recently updated to include the Tokyo 2020 series, I found this awesome blog post by Maraid Design who has found some wonderful matchbox designs from the 60s and 70s Games.

The stylised archer (above) is derived from the full set of pictograms designed by Nikolai Belkov, a graduate of the Mukhina Arts School in Leningrad. However, I’m not sure who came up with the chap below, who has a touch of the Egyptian warrior about him, with a decidedly up-the-revolution worker’s cap on top. 

See the full set here. I particularly love the judo one, apparently unique amongst Olympic pictographic depictions in that it doesn’t show two fighters engaged in combat. 

The Olympics aren’t the only time archery has appeared on matchboxes, as these covetable charmers from Finland and Poland, prove:

BONUS: something from the Brisbane Commonwealth Games of 1982

If you’re into this kind of thing, you might enjoy my post about the Olympic Museum

“How A Career Ends.”

22 September, 2016

What happens when things come to a close. Fascinating post from Excelle Sports about Olympic gold medallist Luann Ryon, who won individual gold in 1976 in Montreal. From a series about the ending of athletic careers.

JUL 21 1979, JUL 29 1979; Luann Ryon Is On The Mark Once More; Ryon's performance Saturday at the National Sports Festival put her in second behind Lynette Johnson.; (Photo By Ernie Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

JUL 21 1979, JUL 29 1979; Luann Ryon Is On The Mark Once More; Ryon’s performance Saturday at the National Sports Festival put her in second behind Lynette Johnson.; (Photo By Ernie Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

I really thought I had one more shot in ’88. I had a friend that I trained with a little bit in ’88, but three weeks before the tryouts someone stole my equipment. And trying to put equipment together, everything that you need, and get it just right, and not having time to really train . . .

You know, the bow is an extension of you. I’m sure anybody with any sport that uses an object, be it a baseball mitt or a pole to pole vault or whatever, it becomes a part of you. You have to learn . . . It has to become a part of you, and I just felt like, where my shooting had been over the years, and having to get all new equipment in that short a period of time, that I wasn’t going to make it.

Read the full interview here.

more pictures from the call room

11 August, 2016

The call room is a tiny area underneath the east stand of the Sambodromo where the archers wait for their match, wait to go on stage. There’s a lot of thinking – or maybe trying not to think too much – in a very small, unglamorous space. They actually moved one ‘wall’ of it inwards due to the winds a few days ago, which makes it feel a bit more like a prison cell.

For some reason, I’m allowed in there, with a camera. I’m trying to make the most of it.


David Pasqualucci, Areneo David



Bernado Oliveira



Tan Ya-Ting


Marco Galiazzo


Zach Garrett


Caroline Aguirre


Deepika Kumari, Kristine Esubua


Yessica Camilo


Choi Misun


Patrick Huston


Choi Misun & coach


Le Chien-Ling

Olympic archery memorabilia collection

9 August, 2016

Some pictures taken in Shanghai this year but never published: the Olympic memorabilia collection of Mr. Song Tao, a bequiffed Chinese dude who has been collecting for nearly eight years.

It was on display in the entrance to the Yuanshen Stadium where qualifying took place, and was the first time the whole collection had been out in public.

Take a look below:

AWCShanghai-0821 copy
























The proud owner with some of his favourite pieces.