European Swimming Championships, artist unknown, 1938
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As the one year anniversary of Britain’s Olympic golden summer comes around, we can all bask in the memory of such a fantastic sporting occasion. This 1938 poster publicised another exciting sporting event: the European Swimming Championships in Wembley.
First held in 1926, the Championships were, and still are, deemed one of the most prestigious international swimming events. In 1938 Britain unfortunately faltered, only achieving one gold medal and finishing fifth out of eight.
Nonetheless, the competition had suitably impressive surroundings. Built in 1933, Empire Pool was the largest indoor pool in the world and came complete with underwater illumination and space for 4000 spectators.
It famously hosted the 1948 London Olympic Games swimming events, but soon after was closed down as a swimming pool. It reopened in 1978, but this time as entertainment venue Wembley Arena. Unbeknownst to revellers today, they are sitting on top of an Olympic sized swimming pool that still exists underneath their feet.
The poster is indicative of the increasingly clever photography of 1930s poster designers. The two-colour panel poster creates a three-dimensional effect as the diver elegantly glides into the water. The simplistic design focuses attention onto the diver, who is a model of athletic prowess. Her costume stands out in vibrant green as a stark contrast to the white background.
Many posters depicting sporting events were of a smaller size, in order to be used in Underground carriages. Such a simple, but striking design was perfect for enticing the glance of the passenger while they travelled.
A centre for popular British sporting events, London Transport’s marketers regularly saw the opportunity to increase their ticket sales by compelling thousands of Londoners to use their handy services to reach Wembley. As well as advertising the Swimming Championships, they frequently publicised football matches at the nearby stadium.
Written by Willliam Cooper
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