BEIRUT: Olympic trophies are typically associated with outstanding excellence in a particular sport. Unbeknown to many people, however, it is possible for one to receive an Olympic trophy for excellence in the arts. Since 1985, International Olympic Committee trophies have been awarded to a person or institution for achievements in a particular nonsporting field. The executive board selects a different theme each year, choosing “artistic expression” for 2014. The IOC delegated the Lebanese Olympic Committee to select one artist to receive the trophy for Lebanon.
“It was really very exciting for me to be awarded by my countrymen,” winning artist Lena Kelekian told The Daily Star after receiving the Olympic Trophy for “Art and Sport” from the Lebanese Olympic Committee Friday in a ceremony at the Hotel Padova in Sin al-Fil.
“I have three different styles that I work on. One is the abstract style, [which is] very colorful, the second one is ceramic work, which I do all over the city, such as the benches in Ain al-Mreisseh … and the third is my iconography, [which includes] the painting of icons and the restoration of icons.”
Kelekian is no stranger when it comes to recognition and accolades from the International Olympic Committee. Describing herself as the only artist from the Arab world to have received two gold medals in Olympic fine arts, she was awarded a 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medal and Olympic Torch for Olympic fine arts for work displayed in an exhibition organized by the IOC and affiliated with the sporting event, and another for the 2012 London Olympics, at which her husband, architect Hagop Sulahian, also won a gold medal for his artwork.
Kelekian is president of the Olympia Fine Arts Association, formed following the 2008 Olympics in Beijing by a group of the participating artists, all of whom had received an Olympic fine art medal. Kelekian stressed that the organization, described as “a self-governing and totally independent international society of artists,” was not related to the Lebanese Olympic Committee.
Hassan Rustom, secretary-general of the Lebanese Olympic Committee, explained that 2014 marked the first time that the organization has awarded a trophy for art. Rustom told The Daily Star that there were four contenders in the running for the trophy, adding that the executive board decided on Kelekian thanks to “her amazing CV.” The artist’s track record in previous Olympic games was one of the factors that merited her eligibility for the trophy.
Kelekian also hopes to take part in the exhibition affiliated with the Olympics in Rio next year. “It is a very difficult competition, and only seven of the Beijing Olympic artists were selected to be in the Olympics in London,” she explains. “There are seven committees that [have to approve your work] as an artist, if you are eligible and you send your work to be selected.”
Kelekian and the other artists hoping to take part in the 2016 Olympic exhibition are still waiting to hear back regarding this year’s selection, which is initially decided by the LOC before being submitted to the IOC.
“The selection has nothing to do with the previous Olympics,” she clarified. “We are hoping to receive an email that we are eligible to be in the competition for Rio, but until now we don’t know if we are going to receive that email.”