Blog - Simon Roberts - Capturing the iconic London 2012 Olympic Games

    This week marks 10 years since the Olympics games came to London. In one of the greatest sporting spectacles of modern times, the now iconic games saw 10,000 athletes from 204 National Olympic Committees participated across London and the wider United Kingdom. 

    Artist Simon Roberts was there to capture this moment, having been granted unique photographic access by The International Olympic Committee to create an alternative, artistic take focusing on the cultural, economic, and political vistas that are often overlooked in the excitement of the events.

    His work explores the relationship between athletes and the public, putting them in the context of the built environment, and the wider social issues raised by hosting the Olympics. Photographs of how we congregate, how such a complex logistical exercise is staged, the assertion of national identities, and the backdrop of the British landscape.

    Here Simon takes a look back at the 2012 Games, choosing some of his favourite photographs from his series The London Olympiad.

    London 2012 Opening Ceremony, Olympic Stadium, Stratford, London, 27 July 2012 (pictured)

    "At the heart of the Opening Ceremony were thousands of volunteers - men and women, mostly not actors and dancers - who turned up to hours of rehearsal in a car park in Dagenham for no pay. For me, one of the most striking aspects of the 2012 Olympiad was the success of the volunteering programme. In addition to the opening ceremony, nearly 70,000 people took part as ‘game makers’, a high proportion of whom had hailed from Newham, home of the Olympic Park, one of London’s poorest boroughs and also its most ethnically diverse.”

    Women's Beach Volleyball, Horseguards Parade, London, 29 July 2012 (pictured)

    “My photographs explored the relationship between athletes and the public, putting them in the context of the built environment, and the wider social issues raised by hosting such a thoroughly modern spectacle. The focus is not on Usain Bolt crossing the finishing line but the alternative narratives; photographs of how we congregate, how such a complex logistical exercise is staged, the assertion of national identities, and the backdrop of the British landscape, forever present.”

    Equestrian Jumping Individual, Greenwich Park, London, 8 August 2012 (pictured)

    “During the 30th Olympiad, London was presented in a photogenic light, an inspired marketing pitch from an economy desperate for growth. As seen here, Greenwich Park offers an unrivalled panorama over the River Thames, the Isle of Dogs, and the City of London; a cultural landscape which has been immortalized by paintings such as J. M. W. Turner’s View of London from Greenwich (1825).

    Observation and spectatorship are key subjects of this scene. The photograph’s assemblage of figures and landscape, objects and inscriptions (such as the pastiche of British landmarks used as horse jumps), prompts cultural memories of former periods, places, and personalities at this site.

    In the mid-ground is the Queen’s House, a former royal residence designed by architect Inigo Jones and built between 1616 and 1619. It’s one of the most important buildings in British architectural history, being the first consciously neoclassical building constructed in Britain. It was used as a VIP centre for the games. In the distance, Canary Wharf, home to many of the banking institutions implicated in the credit crunch, sits under an ominous cloud, whilst a TV camera hovers over the stadium." 

    Men’s Marathon, Westminster Bridge, London, 12 August 2012 (pictured)

    “After a hesitant start to the Games, an attitude of national pride and even sentimental patriotism pervaded. Team GB achieved its best performance in 104 years, finishing third in the Olympic table, and highlighted the importance immigration has played in Britain since the Second World War.
     
    According to analysis by British Future, over a third of Team GB’s medal count reflected the positive contribution of immigration to British society. Of the forty-three medals won individually, British Future calculated that six were won by Team GB athletes born abroad, and of the thirty-seven medals won by British-born athletes, nine were won by Team GB competitors whose parents or grandparents were born abroad. Mo Farah became only the seventh man in history to complete a 10,000m and 5,000m Olympic double after winning gold in both events at London 2012. Many saw the British Olympic team as a portrait of modern Britain, proudly built on immigration and integration.” 

    You can view all of Simon Robert’s The London Olympiad series and other works on www.Artimage.org.uk - DACS’ digital platform dedicated to sourcing and licensing exceptional modern and contemporary art.

    About Simon Roberts

    Simon Roberts is a contemporary photographic artist. His practice is primarily photography based, but also incorporates video, text and installation work. Roberts interrogates notions of what landscape is and how it is depicted, utilised, commodified and interpreted.

    He has exhibited widely, and his photographs are held in major public and private collections including: the V&A Musuem, Deutsche Boerse Art Collection and the National Maritime Museum. In 2010 Roberts was selected as the official British Election Artist and has been the recipient of several awards including an Honorary Fellowship to the Royal Photographic Society, the Vic Odden prize and grants from Arts Council England and the John Kobal Foundation.

    Further info: www.simoncroberts.com and www.flowersgallery.com

    Image credits:
    1. London Olympics Opening Ceremony, Olympic Stadium, Stratford, London, 27 July 2012. © Simon Roberts / Flowers Gallery. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2022
    2. Women's Beach Volleyball, Horseguards Parade, London, 29 July 2012. Simon Roberts. © Simon Roberts / Flowers Gallery. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2022
    3. Equestrian Jumping Individual, Greenwich Park, London. 8 August 2012. © Simon Roberts / Flowers Gallery. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2022
    4. Men’s Marathon, Westminster Bridge, London, 12 August 2012. © Simon Roberts / Flowers Gallery. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2022









    Posted on by Joanne Milmoe