Primary Sources Related to the Olympics

As the school year winds down, we’re looking ahead to the summer – including the 2021 Summer Olympics (officially Tokyo 2020, delayed until summer 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

You can find dozens of primary sources related to the Olympics from throughout history on DocsTeach.org, our online tool for teaching with documents.

For example, locate photographs related to Jesse Owens and the controversial and complicated 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.

We also have photographs and other primary sources showing Olympians at the White House, Presidents at the Olympics, and other presidential involvement.

We hope your summer is filled with triumphs and achievements!


Image citations, top-left to bottom-right:

  • Photograph C23500-35; President Ronald Reagan with Mary Lou Retton and The 1984 United States Olympic Team; 8/13/1984; Reagan White House Photographs, 1/20/1981 – 1/20/1989; Collection RR-WHPO: White House Photographic Collection; Ronald Reagan Library, Simi Valley, CA. Available at www.docsteach.org/documents/document/reagan-mary-lou-retton
  • Photograph 242-HD-125a3; Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany; 8/1936; Summer Olympic Games, Berlin, 8/1936 – 8/1936; National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized, Record Group 242; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. Available at: www.docsteach.org/documents/document/owens-long-jump
  • Photograph 330-CFD-DF-ST-85-12554.jpeg; Second Lieutenant (2LT) Alonzo C. Babers proudly displays the gold medal he won in the 400-meter men’s track and field competition of the 1984 Summer Olympics; 8/1/1984; DFST8512554; Combined Military Service Digital Photographic Files, 1982 – 2007; Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Record Group 330; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. Available at: www.docsteach.org/documents/document/alonzo-babers-gold-medal
  • Photograph 330-CFD-DF-SN-82-07245.jpeg; First Olympic torchbearer Sandy Norris, after her relay, stands at attention at the flame arrival ceremony. ; 1/31/1980; DFSN8207245; Combined Military Service Digital Photographic Files, 1982 – 2007; Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Record Group 330; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. Available at: www.docsteach.org/documents/document/torchbearer-sandy-norris
  • Photograph 330-CFD-DD-SC-85-08929.jpeg; Olympic Torch Tower of the Los Angeles Coliseum on the day of the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics; 7/28/1984; DDSC8508929; Combined Military Service Digital Photographic Files, 1982 – 2007; Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Record Group 330; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. Available at: www.docsteach.org/documents/document/la-coliseum-1984-summer-olympics
  • Photograph P092916PS-0256; September 2016: Photo of the Day; 9/29/2016 – President Obama with the Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Team; Presidential Photographs, 1/20/2009 – 1/20/2017; Collection BHO-WHPO: Records of the White House Photo Office (Obama Administration); Barack Obama Presidential Library, Hoffman Estates, IL. Available at: www.docsteach.org/documents/document/obama-womens-gymnastics-team

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