Poster History

1948 London Olympics – Fly Pan Am

vintage poster, 1948 London Olympics, Pan Am

Just in time for the opening ceremonies later this week, this gallery favorite tells a rich and timely story. In 1939, the Olympics were awarded to London for the 50th anniversary of the Games (to be held in 1944), but were cancelled due to World War II. After the War, London was chosen to host the Games in 1948 despite wartime damage and the strict austerity of its postwar economy.

None of this high drama is reflected in the timeless poster by Walter Herz, which combines the symbolism of the ancient games in the classical Greek sculpture of Discobolus, with the 5 interlocking rings of the Modern Games. In the background looms London’s dominant symbol, the Houses of Parliament, with Big Ben’s clock showing 4PM – the time at which King George VI would proclaim the Games open.

The so-called “Austerity Games” were enormously successful, featuring athletes from a record 59 countries (although Germany and Japan were not invited and the Soviet Union chose not to participate). The Games were the first to be televised; the BBC paid 1000 pounds sterling for the broadcast rights.

Also, for the first time in 1948, Americans could fly across the Atlantic to attend the Olympics. This example is a very hard-to-find variant with Pan Am Clipper text. There were 3 sizes created; this is the 20 x 30″ medium format.

Browse all of International Poster Gallery’s Olympic posters here.

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