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Cultural Olympiad

Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, always envisioned that the Games should be the “marriage of sport and art.” The Cultural Olympiad runs parallel to the Olympic Games and profiles arts and culture.

To celebrate the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, the Canadian Olympic Committee has challenged communities across Canada to add to a digital Cultural Olympiad that celebrates Canadian arts and culture through the eyes of the local youth.

Upon hearing of the challenge, your city council has asked the local youth to create their community’s submission. Your team is charged with creating a submission to the digital Canadian Youth 2012 Cultural Olympiad that will proudly present your community’s art, culture, architecture, and people to youth around the world.

From the rush of the basketball court and the thrill of the high jump, to the beauty of synchronized swimming and the archer’s precision under pressure ; nothing beats the excitement of the Olympic Games. In the same spirit, world-class entertainment is a big part of what people have come to expect from the Games. This summer in London, prepare to be inspired by more than great athletic feats, as the Cultural Olympiad brings together some of the world’s best arts and entertainment.

When founding the modern Olympic Movement in 1894, Baron Pierre de Coubertin’s vision was that the Games should be the “marriage of sport and art,” says Francesca Canty, the UK and International Cultural Programmes and Partnerships Manager. “London 2012′s commitment is to bring Baron de Coubertin’s vision back to life.”

Sport and culture are two “pillars” that support the mission and vision behind today’s Olympic Games, agrees Canada’s Burke Taylor, Executive Producer for Vancouver’s 2010 Cultural Olympiad. “De Coubertin wanted to bring people together in a way that was both peaceful and competitive. He wanted to give them an opportunity to get to know each other,” says Taylor. “A lot of people aren’t aware of that. They think it’s all about gold medals.”

In keeping with its commitment to give arts and culture a high profile, the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad has been running since 2008 and features a wide range of visual, performance, musical, digital and cultural art exhibits throughout the United Kingdom. Young people are sending in photos, videos, songs and stories online and getting involved in ways unimaginable in the not-too-distant past.

“It is the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Movements” says Canty. The culmination of London’s Cultural Olympiad will be the 2012 Festival, bringing leading artists from all over the world together from June 21 until September 9, 2012, the last day of the Paralympic Games. It is the UK’s “biggest ever festival,” says Canty. In all, 1,000 events will run during the festival.

From pyrotechnics to mixed media art installations and large-scale musical performances, festival events are divided into “strands,” or types, of entertainment. For example, young people were asked to create a short film for a competition in the “Film and Digital” strand. Twenty pieces of “New Music” were commissioned. The “BT River of Music” strand features concerts on different stages representing the world’s continents, many along the iconic River Thames. There’s even a “World of Shakespeare” strand with a new twist on the English classics. Some events are paid admission, but many are free. Venues are set up across London and throughout the UK.

Of course, it takes more than great vision to pull off such a large-scale, widely-coordinated event. It takes years of advance planning, developing the overall tone of the Cultural Olympiad, determining scope (local, national or international focus), and contacting top-notch talent in both artistic and organizational fields.

Top artists often set their schedules months or years in advance, so organizers have to give them plenty of notice in filling the event schedule. Larger organizations such as symphonies or museums need even more notice. Connections between young visual, digital or musical artists and older and more established talent need to be imagined and arranged. In the end, smiles Taylor, “Top talent is not hard to find when asked to be part of the Olympic Games.”

“The more partnerships the better,” Taylor emphasizes. The patrons of the local art community need to be approached early in the process, and asked for their input and ideas. Their assistance is critical in order to pull off the many events. Municipal planners need to be brought on board for both temporary and permanent venues and performing space. Partnerships with people providing exhibition space or other donations can include local groups, government agencies, art councils and businesses.

In other words, the amount of coordination, detailed management and relationship building is mammoth. Organizers rely on a core group of staff, and an army of volunteers and contractors. A successful Cultural Olympiad means getting the right people on board from the start, defining roles, allowing creativity to flow, and having a plan to finish well. While the possibilities may be endless, deadlines are not. They are firm. Large and small commitments along the way must be met.

The other people to bring on board right from the get-go, are media providers and broadcasters. These are the people with the “megaphone,” says Nathalie Cook, Marketing Vice President for Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium. Advertising the highlights of a Cultural Olympiad is half the battle. Once you have a line-up of events in place, and venues and times established, you need to get the word out and build excitement. The Cultural Olympiad is a key way to build anticipation for the Olympic Games.

Since the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, social media tools have also played a large role in connecting people and getting the word out about the Games and the Cultural Olympiad. These are much cheaper ways to advertise than traditional media. London’s planners have used this to their advantage and, as a result, are boldly predicting a participation rate of 10 million people this summer.

When budgeting for a Cultural Olympiad, government supporters and private and public donors put up a large amount of the money, but organizers also plan on earning revenue through ticket and merchandise sales.

Spectators fortunate enough to attend more than one Olympic Games, comment on how each Games has its own personality and feel. Part of what contributes to this is the unique culture of the host country as profiled during the Cultural Olympiad.

“One of the great strengths of the Cultural Olympiad is that it does so much to distinguish one Games from another” explains Taylor who has helped organize many Olympic Games.

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Assignment Overview

The Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad featured the works of artists from across Canada. There were live performances, galleries, and public art. The city was abuzz with excitement. Over 2.5 million fans crowded to hear concerts, appreciate visual art, and take part in the celebrations. While some of many of the events required tickets, there were 650 free events.

Unlike past Cultural Olympiads, culture was also displayed digitally. The Cultural Olympiad Digital Edition (CODE) was a digital art showcase. It profiled new digital media styles in art, music, and film. Artists contributed their pictures, videos, songs and stories that told the world about daily life in Canada. Over 20,000 submissions were made. Social networking made this a hugely popular event.

It was such a huge success that the Canadian Olympic Committee has decided to have Canadian youth digitally celebrate their culture as part of a Canadian Youth 2012 Cultural Olympiad. The challenge is to describe our culture as seen through the eyes of youth. What does it mean to be a youth in Canada? What art, traditions, customs, beliefs, and behaviours are the “blueprint for living” as a youth in Canada?

What is Culture?

  • Just what do we mean when we speak of culture? What exactly is it? Culture refers to a society’s traditions, beliefs, customs, behaviours, dress, language, architecture, music and literature. The respected American anthropologist, Clyde Kluckhohn described culture as the “historically created blueprint for living”.

Are We Living a Global Culture?

  • For thousands of years, the world was a big place. Travelling to another land was done on foot, by animal, or later by boat. Experiencing the cultures of the world could only be done by long and often arduous travel. All of that has changed due to jet travel, TV, and the internet. Now you can experience another culture with the click of your mouse. As a result, we share culture more easily. Youth across the world listen to American pop music, learn to speak English, eat at McDonalds, and wear Nike t-shirts. It makes it more challenging to describe Canadian culture. Do Canadian youth have a unique cultureIs Canadian culture just an extension of a global and American-based culture?

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) has set some submission guidelines for the Canadian Youth 2012 Cultural Olympiad. They are looking for an original 2 minute video or multi-media presentation that showcases the culture of your community or province through the eyes of a youth. It is to combine visual images and the narration of an original poem. It can be any style of poetry that you choose. You could produce a video or a slide presentation. If your group is musical, the poem could be put to music (think music video). The key message of the poem is an explanation of what it means to be a Canadian youth in your community.

Since Canada is a vast nation, culture is a bit different in each community. For instance life in a small Newfoundland fishing village will be quite different than the culture of a ranching community in Alberta. Culture even within a city like Toronto can vary quite a bit between ethnic communities. You might choose to be very specific in describing your community’s culture. You might profile being a Ukrainian Canadian youth in Winnipeg.

What Is Slam Poetry?

  • Slam poetry is performed live, and is often scored by the audience as part of a contest. It often has a vocal style that is similar to that found in hip-hop music or dub poetry (a rhythmic style of poetry from varous cultures). It doesn’t have to rhyme and can shift tones, voices or styles. The emphasis is on using spoken word as a means of creating an emotional impact. This is a form of passionate poetry where the poet speaks his/her mind openly and freely. It is similar to a motivational speech in that words are carefully chosen to emphasize the emotions of the poet. Here is a great example by Shane Koyczan.

Steps to Make Your Multi-Media Presentation

Creating your presentation is not complicated, but it is a fair bit of work. Here are the steps that you will need to follow:

  1. Discuss the meaning of culture. What is Canadian culture? How is it present in your community? What does it mean to be a youth in your community? From these discussions, determine four key messages that will be the content communicated by your presentation.
  2. Decide on the format of your presentation (e.g., video or slide show).
  3. Determine the roles and responsibilities among your group members.
  4. Based on the discussions in step 1 and 2 the decisions regarding format and genre, write your poem.
  5. If doing a slide show, select the images that best represent the ideas in your poem.
  6. If doing a video, layout your presentation using either a script style or a story board. This will help you plan how you will deliver your messages. It helps you plan videoing locations, cuts, images to use, etc. This will also help you think out how the presentation will flow. Check out http://www.sotherden.com/video101/storyboard.htm for a tutorial.
  7. Create your presentation using programs such as PowerPoint, Prezi, iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, or other video and/or photo editing software. You may also choose to add music or other sound effects to enhance the effectiveness of your presentation.

What Is a Story Board?

  • Story boards make the script come to life. In basic terms it is like a timeline for the video, outlining each scene from the opening to the closing shot. It lets you see what the scene will look like and helps tell the story or deliver the messages in an effective way.

What Is The Canadian Olympic Committee?

  • The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) is the organization responsible for Canada’s participation at the Olympic and Pan American Games. They field and support the athletes on the Canadian Olympic Team. The COC also runs education and cultural programs that bring the excitement of the Olympic Games to Canadians.

Festival

  • The London 2012 Festival program will be the UK’s biggest ever culture festival; featuring art, music, theatre, film and more. There will be over 10 million people taking part in events right across the UK. And over 7 million people will have the opportunity to go along for free. In all, the Festival will feature 1,000 events! Featured artists include Damon Albarn, Cate Blanchett, Scissor Sisters, the Lincoln Center Orchestra, Baaba Maal, Angelique Kidjo, Andy Sheppard, Stella McCartney, Yoko Ono, Simon Rattle, Mark Rylance, Paul Smith, Ridley Scott and Rufus Wainwright.

BT River of Music

  • A massive musical celebration, BT River of Music is one strand in the London 2012 Festival. It features performances by musicians representing all the Olympic and Paralympic nations and the major continents across six stages: Battersea Park (Asia stage); Jubilee Gardens (Africa stage); Trafalgar Square (Europe stage); Somerset House (Europe stage); Tower of London (Americas stage) and Greenwich Old Royal Naval College (Oceania stage).

Contact Us

Canadian Olympic School Program
21 St. Clair Avenue E., Suite 900
Toronto, ON Canada, M4T 1L9

Telephone: (416) 324-5003
Email: cosp@olympic.ca

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