I’ve seen many comments that this is the lesser of the two 1968 Winter Olympic films. I don’t agree. I really, really enjoyed this one.
This is a much more conventional film than 13 Days in France, and in that way it provides a surprisingly great companion piece. This film has narration, and more of a story, and spends far more of its time focused on what actually happened at the games. What was refreshing, is how much of a perspective the film had on the events themselves. Ultimately, with any sporting event as large and varied as the Olympics, there are only going to be a few things we all collectively remember decades later. Jessie Owens in ‘36, Bob Beamon in '68. This film decides what it thinks those things will be, and spends far more time on them than on basically anything else. As a result, it feels far more focused, and useful, than some of the previous entries.
13 Days in France opens with text claiming it’s not a statement. Whether that’s true or not, it seems directly tied to this film. This film is unabashedly a statement. Through the narration various themes are discussed, including the value of sports, the point of the games, and the value of celebrity. The film feels very mid-century French in this way, which I really enjoyed. There is, in some corners, a distaste for the idea of ideology, or politics, or any kind of message, mixing with sports. I’m thinking of the “shut up and dribble” crowd here. The lie of that position, is the assumption social opinion is new in sports. Sport has always been a platform for social commentary. It remains one of the best places we have to try and get a message across.