Paris 2024: 100 Years After the 1924 Olympics – A Century of Evolution in Visual Storytelling

As the world prepares for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, it marks a centenary since the city last hosted the Games in 1924. For this unique and historical event, The Game Magazine reflects on how visual storytelling and photography of the Olympics have transformed over the past 100 years.

 First Olympic Village 1924
IMAGO / United Archives International | Entrance and sign to the Olympic Village – The first Olympic village was constructed to accommodate participants of the VIII Olympic Games in 1924.

The Paris 1924 Olympics: A Snapshot of the Past

One hundred years ago, the Olympics wasn’t what we see and understand nowadays from this event. However, the 1924 Olympics was a start and backbone in shaping it into what this event is today. The 1924 Paris Olympics, known as the Games of the VIII Olympiad, were a grand event in the post-World War I era. Forty-four countries and around 3,089 athletes participated in the event, which was notable for several reasons. They were the first to feature the Olympic motto “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (Faster, Higher, Stronger), and they introduced the Olympic Village, where athletes were housed together, fostering a spirit of international camaraderie.

On the other hand, the 1924 Olympics had an impact culturally. The Games celebrated peace and unity following World War I, with a strong emphasis on sportsmanship and international cooperation. Paris was vibrant, with a sense of optimism and renewal permeating the city. The event attracted crowds and media coverage, signaling the Olympics’ arrival as a significant global spectacle.

Olympics 1924
IMAGO / United Archives International | The opening ceremony of the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, France.

What was Photography Like in the 1924 Paris Olympics?

In 1924, photographers used large format cameras that required glass plate negatives or early roll films. These cameras were cumbersome, often requiring tripods due to long exposure times. Capturing action shots was challenging, leading to many posed and static images. The development process was manual and time-consuming, and did involve chemical baths in darkrooms. Images were then printed and published in newspapers and magazines, often days or weeks after the event.

The Evolution of Olympic Photography: Technical and Storytelling

Over the past century, the field of photography underwent revolutionary changes. Technological advancements, evolving journalistic practices and many more.

Nowadays, modern photographers use digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) and mirrorless cameras, which are compact and highly portable. These cameras feature high-speed shutters and high ISO capabilities, which allow crisp and clear action shots even in low light. On the other hand, the instantaneous nature of digital photography means images can be reviewed, edited, and shared globally within seconds. This provides real-time coverage of the events.

As a result, this real-time sharing has transformed how audiences engage with the Olympics: a more immersive and interactive experience​. The technical advancement and changes in journalism practices also have significantly impacted how stories are told during the Olympics.

In 1924, storytelling was primarily driven by written reports complemented by black-and-white photographs. These images were static, often staged, and some lacked the dynamic action shots that are common today. Indeed, the storytelling relied heavily on the journalist’s narrative to bring the events to life.

Hugues Fabrice Zango
IMAGO / Xinhua | Hugues Fabrice Zango of Burkina Faso competes in the Men’s Triple Jump Final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, on August 5, 2021.

But today, we know that the narrative is richly visual. High-definition photography and video capture every moment in stunning detail, allowing for dynamic storytelling. Athletes’ emotions, the intensity of competition, and the grandeur of ceremonies are all vividly portrayed through visual media. This shift has made the stories more engaging and accessible to a global audience.

Social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook allow fans to follow live updates, engage with content, and share their own experiences. This real-time interaction has changed the storytelling process, and fans have a voice to make them part of the Olympic narrative.

At the same time, for athletes, the evolution of visual storytelling means increased visibility and the ability to build personal brands. Social media provides a platform for athletes to share their journeys, connect with fans, and advocate for causes. This has transformed many athletes into global icons, transcending their sports to become influential public figures.

Paris 2024
IMAGO / Xinhua | On August 5, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan, Damian Warner of Canada competes in the Decathlon Discus Throw at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Paris 2024100 Years After the 1924 Olympics – A Century of Evolution in Visual Storytelling

1924 Paris Olympic Games
IMAGO / KHARBINE-TAPABOR | Postcard for the 1924 Paris Olympic Games.
Paris 1924 football
IMAGO / piemags | The football match between Netherlands and Sweden, which ended 1-3 on June 9, 1924, at Stade The Colombes during the Olympic Games in Paris 1924.
Sweden Egypt Olympic Games 1924
IMAGO / TT | Sven Rydell (left) in action for the Swedish national football team against Egypt in the quarter-finals of the Summer Olympic Games at Stade Pershing in Paris 1924. Sweden won 5-0. June 1, 1924. Stade Pershing, Paris, France.