Skip navigation

The Summer Olympics officially begin on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Time to lace up those running shoes, tune up the bicycle, and go for that perfect 10!

Join us this week as we share a variety of records held at the National Archives related to historic Olympic Games and participants.

Members of the US olympic team in matching track outfits, walking on the track and waving to the crowd in the stands

Members of the US Olympics Team wave to spectators as they march into the LA Coliseum during the opening ceremonies for the 1984 Summer Olympics, 8/9/1984. National Archives Identifier 6386474

The Presidential Libraries of the National Archives hold memories of Olympic Games, as Presidents have traditionally welcomed Olympic teams and athletes to the White House, and sometimes attended the games in person. Additionally, at prior Olympic games, military photographers captured images of servicemen and women competing in the games. These photographs are part of the series Combined Military Service Digital Photographic Files, 1982 - 2007.

Here is a selection of some of our favorite Olympic images that can be found in the National Archives Catalog:

Fencing athlete pointing the sword near the direction of the camera
Man in a wrestling uniform smiles at the camera

Army Reserve 1ST Lieutenant John Moreau from San Antonio, Texas, participates in the fencing competition at the 1984 Summer Olympics, 8/1/1984. National Archives Identifier 6380124

T.J. Jones, US Navy, a member of the wrestling team competing at the 1984 Summer Olympics, 8/1/1984. National Archives Identifier 6380163

Jim Thorpe crouched in a runner's start, looking ahead
Two olympic athletes hold up their kayak

Photograph of Jim Thorpe, ca. 1910. National Archives Identifier 595347

Army Captain David L. Gilman, left, from Oakland Army Base, California, and Army National Guard Private First Class Daniel W. Schnurrenberger, members of the kayak team competing at the 1984 Summer Olympics, 8/1/1984 National Archives Identifier 6380088

A group of women swimmers dive off the starting blocks
Black and white photograph of a man jumping over the high jump while President Ford observes

Susan Rapp, the daughter of an Army colonel, is among the participants at the start of a race at the 1984 Summer Olympics. She won a silver medal for her performance in the 200 meter breaststroke, 8/6/1984 National Archives Identifier 6380010
Photograph of President Gerald Ford Watching Track and Field Athletes Practice for the 1976 Summer Olympics at New York State University College Campus in Plattsburgh, New York, 7/10/1976 National Archives Identifier 7062579

Olympic ceremonies at the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Lights and light from an aircraft are seen in the night sky over the bridge
President Reagan poses with the members of the US Olympic team. President Reagan wears a cowboy hat

A US Air Force F-111 Aardvark aircraft, with it's after burner on, clears the Sydney Harbour Bridge during closing ceremonies of the 2000 Olympics games in Sydney, Australia, 10/1/2000 National Archives Identifier 6514773

President Ronald Reagan During a Ceremony to Welcome Home The United States Olympic Team Members Who Competed in Seoul, Korea Which Includes Robert Helmick Greg Barton Matt Biondi Janet Evans Florence Griffith Joyner and Andrew Maynard on The South Lawn, 10/24/1988 National Archives Identifier 75856325

President George W Bush hits a volleyball on the beach to Misty May Treanor
President Obama poses with Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney

President George W. Bush Hits a Volleyball to U.S. Women's Beach Volleyball Team Member Misty May-Treanor, 8/9/2008 National Archives Identifier 148035494

President Barack Obama and U.S. Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney recreate her 'not impressed' photograph, 11/15/2012. National Archives Identifier 183898490

1936 Olympic Games in Berlin
Black and white photograph of Jesse Owens jumping through the air

Photograph of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, 1936. National Archives Identifier 148728022

Photographs of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin were captured from Nazi Germany at the end of World War II, and can be found in Record Group 242: National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized. Learn more about the Return of Captured Records from World War II on the Pieces of History blog.

Photograph of Jesse Owens racing an opponent
Photograph of Jesse Owens sitting at a table writing with his medals on display

Photograph of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, 1936. National Archives Identifier 148728028

Photograph of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, 1936. National Archives Identifier 148728032

You can view additional examples from the photograph series 242-HD: Summer Olympic Games, Berlin, August 1936 in the National Archives Catalog. Photographs in this series include the lighting of the Olympic Torch at Mt. Olympus; the opening ceremonies in Berlin; pre-games training by different teams; athletes in the Olympic Village; various ceremonies, pageants and parades; athletes participating in various events; and informal portraits of athletes, crowd scenes and spectators including Adolf Hitler.

Learn more about the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin on the Unwritten Record blog: This Week in Universal News: The 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin  

Louis Zamperini

Before he was a war hero, Louis Zamperini was an Olympian. Read about his amazing Olympic and war story in the Unwritten Record post, Louis Zamperini: The Story of a True American Hero.

Photograph of Louis Zamperini examining a hole in his plane

Photograph of Lt. Lou Zamperini, Bombardier, Examining the Damage a Japanese Cannon Shell did to His Liberator, 1943 National Archives Identifier 16801970

Interested in additional Olympic resources? Find dozens of primary sources related to the Olympics from throughout history on DocsTeach.org, our online tool for teaching with documents. Learn more on the Education Updates blog.

Start your research on History Hub
Animated gif of two people in a research room looking at a document together and talking

Have a question? Find your answer on History Hub!

Free and open to anyone, you can ask questions and get answers from multiple sources including National Archives staff, other archives, libraries, museums, and a community of genealogists, history enthusiasts, and citizen experts like you.

For those looking to conduct research or learn more about records related to historic Olympic games and participants, we encourage you to browse recent posts and questions on History Hub. Recent posts include:

Jesse Owens breaks the 100m tape to win the first of his four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics

 

See our recent newsletter for more details, information, and instructions about using History Hub for your research.

Make History Hub your first stop! You can ask—or answer—questions on History Hub, or see if your question has already been answered.

History Hub logo

The Catalog Newsletter

Learn about newly added records and receive tips on using the Catalog's features, functionality, and guides. The National Archives Catalog is the online public portal to our records where you can learn more about our holdings. This email newsletter is delivered on a biweekly basis. Subscribe to the National Archives Catalog Newsletter