The VI Olympic Winter Games, Oslo 1952

A mixed bag of intense nationalism, and great coverage of the physical reality of Olympic-level athleticism. I enjoyed this film, but man it was so intensely provincial.

These documentaries were produced at the behest of the various national Olympic committees that sponsored the various editions of the Olympic games. It’s not a surprise then, that they are all, to some degree, nationalistic endeavors. The Olympics, despite all of their ideals about peace, are a bragging event for the host nation. If you had told me however, the most nationalistic film of the first half century of modern Olympic games would be one from Norway, and not Berlin in 1936, I would have been incredulous. Still, that’s where we are.

This film cares about exactly two things, and one of them is pretty great. The other one is the success of Norwegian athletes, and specifically how they did against the other Nordic nations that were present. Every possible moment in this film, where Norway’s successes can be compared to Sweden and Finland, they are. It’s overwhelming, and while it’s somewhat interesting, it’s also destructive. The obsessive focus on winning, and at the expense of specific opponents, is something only the Berlin Olympics can even come close to.

The great thing I mentioned, is how the film covers the sports it shows. Rather than focus purely on results, the film tries to examine exactly what makes the athletes so amazing at their particular disciplines. We get lots of slow motion of athletes in action, hardly a new technique for the coverage of the games, but with a voice over directing us to look at specific techniques. It’s a wonderful approach, and it gave me a much better sense of just how hard all of the athletics really are.