Hellenic Museum's Olympic Games: Then & Now

Exhibition explores the Many Dimensions of this Global Sporting Ideal
and Reveals its Chicago Connection

The Olympics were founded over 2,500 years ago in ancient Greece and it is with pride and honor that the modern games return to their homeland this summer. To coincide with this momentous occasion, a national institution, the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center (HMCC) is proud to bring a multifaceted exhibition on the heroic sporting event to Chicago. Olympic Games: Then & Now runs May 23 – November 14, 2004, at the Museum's new space on the fourth floor of the Greek Islands Restaurant, 801 West Adams Street, Chicago. But what ancient Greek story is without scandal and intrigue? Among other things, this exhibit sheds new light on the 1904 Chicago Olympics Games that were stolen away by Chicago's rival city St. Louis.

HMCC joined forces with a number of national and local institutions, particularly Columbia College Chicago, in developing the varied exhibit elements of Olympic Games: Then and Now. HMCC's combined investigative work with Columbia journalism students culminated in the significant discovery of previously unknown documentation describing the events that led to Chicago's loss of the 1904 Olympic Games to St. Louis. The fact that Chicago was originally selected as the host city is little known by the general public, however, the mystery of the circumstances that led to the games being transferred has haunted Chicago historians and Olympic scholars for a century. As the ancient gods, hard work, and a bit of coincidence would have it, HMCC brings a new dimension to the odyssey on the100 year anniversary of the event.

Had Chicago not given up its hard-won rights to the 1904 Olympic Games," University of Chicago Professor John MacAloon believes, "the history of the modern Olympic Movement would surely have been different."

Until now, the prevailing thought on the transfer of the games has been that somehow the Chicago committee failed to follow through with their bid to host the games. University of Chicago Professor John MacAloon, one of three U.S. experts on the 1904 Olympics, explains the historic event as a setback to the Olympic Movement. "Had Chicago not given up its hard-won rights to the 1904 Olympic Games," MacAloon believes, "the history of the modern Olympic Movement would surely have been different." MacAloon admits that the Chicago Olympics bid committee did everything right. They included one of the first proposals for a domed stadium and recruited prominent educators, civic leaders, and diplomats to help organize the Games.

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"As it was, the Greek authorities had to step in with the 'interim Olympics of 1906' in order to save the nascent Olympic Movement from the disaster of St. Louis, caused by Chicago's (still somewhat unexplained) decision to forsake the 1904 Games."

The transfer of the Chicago Olympic Games to St. Louis resulted in minimal international presence at the 1904 Olympics. The Europeans decided not to participate as their teams had prepared for Chicago and were unwilling to compete in St. Louis. In the U.S., the Ivy League athletic programs that were prominent in the 1900 Paris Olympics boycotted the 1904 Games.

This story was so intriguing that the Hellenic Museum wanted to include it in its exhibition. But what seemed to be a fog took on a new dimension when the Museum curator and Columbia College Chicago Investigative Reporting Journalism students uncovered a box of documents donated to a small Wisconsin archive decades ago. It turns out that the papers belonged to one of the key 1904 Chicago Olympic organizers. While there are still a few missing pieces, it has become apparent that the games were stolen away from Chicago by its archrival St. Louis. Much of this new documentation will be presented in the Excavating the History/Mystery of the 1904 Chicago Olympic Games component of the exhibition.

Another group of talented students of Columbia College Chicago's Interactive Multimedia Program did a tremendous job in bringing 776 B.C. Olympia to life for twenty-first century visitors to the exhibition. The Ancient Games: A Walk Through Olympia combines their extensive research, wonderful graphics, and technology to create a first-rate, three-dimensional world to explore.

From investigating this century-old mystery, to providing an interactive walk through Ancient Olympia, to a look at the Olympics through the eyes and art of children and professional artists commissioned by the United States Olympic Committee and Athens, and finally through examples of Olympic stamps - there is something for everyone at this exhibit. A variety of exciting programs for individuals and school groups have also been planned to complement the exhibit.

The following exhibit elements of Olympic Games: Then and Now allows visitors to journey to a new, yet ancient world:

Excavating the History/Mystery of the 1904 Chicago Olympic Games

Discover the newest research in this fascinating historical and archival account of the 1904 Olympic Games, which were originally scheduled to be held in Chicago and were transferred to St. Louis. Research, narrative, and timeline conducted by Investigative Reporting Students, Journalism Program, Columbia College Chicago. Additional research provided by The University of Chicago and Marshall University of Huntington, West Virginia.

The Ancient Games: A Walk Through Olympia
An interactive exhibition based on the events held during the 776 B.C. Olympic Games.

Visitors will be able to navigate through the temples, altars, and artifacts of the ancient grounds of Olympia. This three-dimensional virtual space will also contain historical dialogue to provide the users with an interactive learning journey. Created by Team Omada and students of the Interactive Multimedia Program, School of Media Arts, Columbia College Chicago.

Children’s Art Competition

An exhibition depicting the ideal of sporting excellence as seen through the eyes of students from Midwestern Greek Cultural and Language Schools, Kindergarten through eighth grade. In cooperation with the Education Consulate of Greece, Chicago, and the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago.

Artwork by Euripides (Rip) Kastaris

Works of St. Louis based Greek American artist Rip Kastaris whose epic mural and sculpture KYKLOS-Circle of Glory will be permanently installed at the Athens Olympic Stadium Spyros Louis. Rip has also created "Return to Glory" as an official image for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games by the United States Olympic Committee.

Penelopeia - The Other Journey: Shifting

Highlights of a multimedia, time based art project and network created by Greek and European women artists that documents women's life journeys from Classical Antiquity to the present. This project was exhibited in Washington, DC, through the efforts of the Embassy of Greece.

Stamp Collection Display
A Postal History of the Olympics in Greece from 1896 to 2004 from the
Parry/Paterakis Collection.

The Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center began as a dream in the early 1980s when a number of members from Chicago's Greek community established it as a not-for-profit institution with the mission of preserving the archival collections from the Greek American immigrant experience. Since its inception, the mission of the HMCC has been expanded to include providing a venue for the cultural achievements of contemporary Greek Americans in the visual, literary and performing arts and to showcasing the celebrated Hellenic culture of antiquity that is its legacy. In the short time since opening its doors on May 8, 1992, HMCC has become a presence in Chicago to the extent that it has been designated by Mayor Richard M. Daley as the anchor of the new Greektown redevelopment project, which is transforming the Halsted Street area into a world-class tourist destination.

HMCC's regular gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday 10am – 4pm; Saturday 11am – 4pm; Sunday 12pm – 5pm. Regular exhibit admission is free to HMCC Members; $5 for non-Members. Special fees may apply to programs. Group Tours are available with advance registration. For more information call the Museum at 312.655.1234 or visit the Museum at www.hellenicmuseum.org.