If you read my blog post of last week regarding the Official medals and badges of the Olympics of the 1936 Berlin Games, you should have noticed that some of the important information came directly from the Official Report for the Games produced by the German government. So this week I thought I would talk a bit about them and why they are a valuable resource for the Olympic memorabilia collector.
The Official Reports for recent Olympic Games are hefty tomes, covering every aspect of the Games from the bidding process through to the Closing Ceremony, with detailed technical and financial details of every stage of the process. In the case of London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, this was a decade long journey costing close to £9 billion. With such things as legal framework, security, technology, city infrastructure, operations and hospitality (with 204 countries sending more than 10,000 athletes to compete in 300 events) just a few of the things to consider, no wonder that the London 2012 Official Report was released on a DVD only!
The first Official Report was produced at the first revival of the Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. There were several editions produced, in Greek and French (French being the official language of the IOC) and in German and English. These days all the Official Reports are published in the official language(s) of the host country and the official languages of the IOC (English and French). The 1896 Report began with a monograph of Ancient Olympia (excavation of which had only started 20 years previously), and goes on to explain the planning for the Games including how it raised the money to host such an event. For me, one of the gems was about a source of income which was ground-breaking at the time: “400,000 Drs. was assured to the Committee by the sale of Commemoration stamps”. The Report also features many photographs and illustrations of the competing athletes as well as journalistic-style reports of all the events.
This was continued for the 1900 Paris Games, but the 1904 St. Louis Official Report was published by Spalding’s Official Athletic Almanac and contained a much briefer account. In fact since then, only the Belgian Organising Committee failed to produce a report after their 1920 Antwerp Games after having run out of money. A report was published sometime after the Games by Alfred Verdyck who issued a type-written report which was re-written several times. And it wasn’t until 1958 that a report by the Belgian Organising Committee was published. Even the Japanese Organising Committee managed to publish a report for the work they undertook for the 1940 Games “until the relinquishment” (their own words for the title of the Report, due to their incapability to host their Games due to the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War). Of course I should also mention that Official Reports have been made for each of the Winter Games (except for Chamonix 1924 which was included with the Paris 1924 Report).
Read one and you will quickly see that they are truly an invaluable and fascinating resource, especially for the collector who specialises in a particular Games. The wealth of information will broaden your knowledge, understanding and appreciation of these spectacles and hopefully lead to a more rewarding and interesting collection for yourself!
Understandably the Reports from the 1896, 1900 and 1904 Games are the most valuable and worth thousands of Euros each (if you can find one!). The rest are typically worth between a hundred and a few hundred Euros. However the great news is that every single Report to 2010 is freely available online thanks to the LA84 Foundation.
So be sure to check out the next David Feldman auction of Olympic Memorabilia and Philately in Autumn 2015, because we will have some Official Reports to offer to you.
Thanks to Juergen Wagner for his corrections and additions to this text