The Olympic Games in Motion: Film and television resources

The National Archive (National Archive), holds a wealth of information about the Olympic Games. It is a wonderful coincidence that the modern Olympic Games officially began in 1896, the same date as the creation of the moving image. The first Athens Games were not filmed; neither were the 1900 Paris Games and the earliest footage which the National Archive holds is from 1906, erroneously dated on the film itself as 1896.

Below is a list highlighting some titles in the National Archive, all of which may be viewed for research purposes.

BBC TV recordings

Since August 1991 the NFVTA has recorded all BBC1 and BBC2 transmissions for research viewing purposes. Therefore all BBC coverage of the Olympic Games transmitted in the UK from that date will be available for viewing. Researchers are asked to provide the day and time of the coverage they require wherever possible.

Film and TV programmes

Athens 1896 [Sic] (1906)/ Greece
Production Company: unknown
Running time: 30 seconds

An extract from film of the Interim Olympics in Athens. Shots of the opening ceremony and the standing high jump. (The title suggests the film is 1896 whereas evidence from the film indicates that it is certainly the 1906 Interim Games)

High-angle shot of a long square arena - the Panathenean Stadium with a parade in the arena - the opening ceremony. The title 'Athens 1896 Athne' is superimposed over the scene then fades. The standing high jump. A man from a standing position jumps and successfully clears the bar. He is watched by officials and the crowd can be seen in the background. A second man attempts the jump. Filmed from a slightly different angle. He fails, knocking over the bar with his foot. He walks away. A third man attempts, he too fails and lands on his back in the sand.

1908 Olympics: Marathon (1908) France
Production Company: Pathé Freres
Running time: 4.5 mins

The 1908 London Games. The start and finish of the marathon. Runners Dorando Pietri ( Italy), John Hayes (US) and Johan Svanburg ( Sweden).

1908 Olympics: Track & Field (1908) France
Production Company: Pathé Freres
Running time: 2.8 mins

The 1908 London Games. Footage of gymnasts, high jump, tug-o-war, discus, water polo, archery, pole vaulting, and the marathon. Queen Alexandra presents medals to athletes.

Stockholm - The Olympic Games (1912) France
Production Company: Pathé Freres
Running time: 9mins

Compilation of Olympic Games footage, mainly or entirely from Stockholm 1912. Includes wrestling, football, tennis, hammer throwing, 200m, high jump and the marathon.

Les Jeux Olympiques Paris (1924) France
Production Company: Rapid-Film
Running time: 61mins

A record of the Olympic Games held in Paris in 1924 including the opening ceremonies, gymnastics, marathon, running, high jump, swimming, ski jumping and rugby.

Olympia: The Film of the XI Olympic Games Berlin 1936 (English Version) (1938) Germany
Director: Leni Riefenstahl
Running time: 208 minutes

Includes footage of Hitler declaring the Games open. Jesse Owens wins the 100m and the long jump, the latter creating a new Olympic record.

XIVth Olympiad: The Glory of Sport (1948) Great Britain
Production Company: Olympic Games Film Company
Running time: 30 minutes.

The official film of the 1948 Olympic Games held in London. Athletes include Emil Zatopek in the 5000m, Fanny Blankers-Koen in the 80m hurdles, the 100m, the 200m and the 4x100m relay. Cabrera wins the marathon. The film also includes coverage of the Winter Games in St Moritz.

The Olympic Games (1952) Great Britain
(Television Newsreel 108/52)
Production Company: BBC
Running time: 7mins

Coverage of the 1952 Helsinki Games. Includes footage of Roger Bannister in the 1500 metres. Bannister came fourth with a personal best time; the winner was Barthel who gained an Olympic record. Zatopek won the marathon.

Melbourne Olympiad (1956) Australia
Production Company: Drummer Films
Director: Ian K. Barnes
Running time 66 minutes.

Footage of the opening and closing ceremonies (Ron Clark brings the beacon to the Stadium). Athletes featured include Dawn Frazer in the 100m freestyle swimming and Vladimir Kuts, Gordon Pirie, Chris Chataway and G. Ibbotson all in the 5,000m.

Tokyo Orinpikku (1965) Japan
Aka Tokyo Olympiad
Production Company: Toho Company
Director: Kon Ichikawa.

A record of the 1964 Games in Tokyo. British competitors featured include Lynn Davis (final - long jump) and Anne Packer in the final of the 800m (the last 200m repeated in slow motion), Close-up and slow motion shots of the Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila.

Olympic Games Compilation Tape (1972) Great Britain
Production Company: ITV Sport
Running time: 90mins

Production material from the 1972 Munich Olympics featuring athletics, boxing and basketball.

One Day In September (5/9/2000) (Great Britain/Switzerland)
Production Company: Passion Munich Ltd [and others]
Director: Kevin MacDonald.
Running time 95mins

Documentary concerning how members of the Israeli team were taken hostage by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Olympics at Munich. The film includes interviews with relatives of several of the athletes.

Olympics '80 (1980) Great Britain

Extensive production footage from ITV Sport's coverage of the Moscow Games including the opening ceremony.

BBC Television Sport 1936-1986 (1986) Great Britain
(Fifty Not Out)
Production Company: BBC
Transmitted 22/11/1986
Running time: 60mins

A history of sports coverage on television that includes the 1948 London Olympics and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

The Games in Question (1988) Great Britain
A four-part series on the history of the Olympic movement.
Production Company Flashback TV for Channel 4
Transmitted 27/8/1988-17/9/1988.
Director: Taylor Downing.
Running time: 25mins each episode.

Part 1: The Olympic Ideal. Part 2. Nationalism and the Olympics. Part 3. The Selling of the Olympics. Part 4: The Route to Seoul.

Last Updated: 28 Apr 2011