Olympic posters are documents from which we can interpret the social and political atmosphere of the past. They announce and promote each new global sports festival. They not only inform about the Olympics but also emphasize the ties between sport and culture. It has become a tradition that after each Olympics, the president of the International Olympic Committee selects one poster to become the Olympics’ image.

The modern Olympic Games develop side by side with the advancement of imaging techniques. Before offset and computer graphics appeared, posters were prepared as multi-coloured lithographs. Over the years, among the artists involved in the creation of Olympic posters, there have been periods of fascination in photography, photomontage, collage techniques, new figuration, and a time of looking for a careful form shortcut.

The earliest graphic forms associated with the Games were the covers of programs and reports. The first poster intentionally designed for promotion poster appeared in 1912 to promote the Olympics in Stockholm. However, in some countries, its use was prohibited due to the naked figure in the foreground. The public opinion also disapproved the domination of the Swedish flag in the poster.

The five Olympic rings designed by Baron Pierre de Coubertin – the originator of the modern Olympic Games – was included in the poster composition for the first time during the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid in 1932. The poster was designed by graphic artist Witold Gordon, a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, who eventually settled in the United States.

From the mid-twentieth century, artists began to move away from classical motifs in the posters. For a long time, the Games were continued in Europe and North America, which resulted in sports illustrations relating to the culture originating in Europe. As the organization also targeted Asia, Oceania, and South America, new artistic influences extended across Europe and North America.

From the 1960s, the hosts of the successive Olympics began to publish an extensive series of posters. Exclusive competitions were organized, and selected artists were invited to prepare their own projects. Among the authors of such posters were: David Hockney, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and Roy Lichtenstein.

Over the decades, the way the human body is presented has changed. The oldest posters showed the classic ideal of an athletic figure. Photography reflected a sense of physical fitness and perfection. In modern posters, the human figure is often reduced to a simplified, symbolic form. Besides, universal access to information eliminated the need to include extensive content in posters. What is left are a minimum of words, pictures, and symbols. Patterns became more abstract and simplified, and the colour range of single posters is usually reduced.