While the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi have been a terrific sporting spectacle, sadly their product licensing department dropped the ball, and consequently there was no worldwide licensee for posters. As far as we know, only a single Russian publisher had any designs available, and they were forbidden from exporting to us here in North America. But, it does give us an opportunity to review with you our top-five favourite official Winter Olympics poster designs from years past. (All previous Olympic Games official posters are available in our Olympic Museum Collection).
This simple, beautiful design became an icon for an era, introducing a color scheme that dominated the early 1980s, and evoking the glorious cold-war-era victory of Team USA over the Soviets in hockey in that year’s “Miracle on Ice”. Many consider Lake Placid 1980 to have been the greatest Winter Games of all-time, a model that has rarely been matched since!
As the Lake Placid poster became a design icon for the ’80s, this official poster for Innsbruck, Austria’s first of two Winter Olympic Games became a style guide for 1960s ski fashion. The blue-on-blue color scheme is spectacular, and the snowflake icon is simply stunning. A bit of trivia for Winter Olympics fans: Innsbruck hosted the games again just 12 years later, when they were originally awarded to Denver, Colorado, but then relocated to Innsbruck again after Denver’s voters rejected the games due to skyrocketing costs.
After a twelve-year absence due to World War II, the Olympics returned to the world stage with the St. Moritz games of 1948. The poster design is magnificent, evoking a new dawn in the war-torn history of Europe, with two cross-country skiiers watching in awe as the sky comes alive with a frost-filled sunrise atop the alps. Amazing 1940s-era style!
We have always adored this poster, with its motivational message (“Light the Fire Within”), and its unique artwork featuring a fiery torch-bearer emerging out of the snow and ice of the winter chill. Surprisingly, the IOC chose the much-more pedestrian “Salt Lake Flag” design as it’s “official” Salt Lake 2002 poster for posterity; however, we remain partial to this one as the true visual-arts symbol of that magnificent games.
This spectacular work of graphic arts set a standard for Winter Games posters that, in our opinion, remains unmatched to this day. It has it all – the Olympic rings prominently displayed; the location and dates in an iconic font style evocative of the era; a superb art deco-era overall appearance; and artwork that includes one of the key sports of winter competition, with a ski jumper soaring high above a map of the USA, with Lake Placid’s location clearly marked in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. Simply perfect!