Round Up: The best 2008 Olympic photos

by Reads (16)

I’m an indiscriminate sports fan. Devise a contest requiring equally measures athletic ability and unique skill, put it on television, and chances are I’ll watch it.

Hence, I’m among that odd minority who get excited about the Olympics literally months in advance. Not because I’ve been closely following elite-level competition in team handball or men’s javelin, but because the games provide an opportunity to watch sports – interesting, elite-level sports that we rarely see on television in this country – all day, every day, for weeks on end.

If you also love photography, the Olympics are doubly fascinating. Every four years (well, two if you count the winter games as well) the world’s best sports photographers converge to photograph the world’s best athletes delivering world class performances. For me, as a photographer, the iconic images that come out of the Olympics are what sticks in my mind after the games are over. It’s a bit ironic: athletics are about motion, yet it’s often the still image – the capture of a single split-second within this motion – that most powerfully conveys the hope, the perseverance, the phenomenal abilities, and the despair that are the essence of sport.

With that in mind, I’ve put together some of my favorite finds for 2008 Olympic photos. 

The “official” source
Not surprisingly, American television network NBC, who has exclusive TV coverage of the games, holds one of the largest caches of Olympic photographs on their site devoted to the event, Users can sort by day, by sport, or just browse the extensive collection of event- and athlete-specific galleries. For some unique shots of one of the most bizarre happenings in the last few days, check out NBC’s play-by-play images documenting the taekwondo official who was kicked in the face by an angry athlete.

Revisiting the opening ceremony
I’ve seen so many shots of the opening ceremony that I really couldn’t imagine wanting to look at another, but National Geographic managed to draw me in with a well-selected collection of shots presenting the official start of the games in vivid color. After the ubiquitous fireworks shot, the gallery continues with some of the most compositionally interesting images I’ve seen in awhile.

Technical considerations, unique perspectives
If your interests lean more toward the mechanics of sports photography and you want to learn more about the process used to capture some of the stunning perspectives seen in sports photography, former New York Times photographer Vincent Laforet has a post on Newsweek‘s blog showing some of his unique overhead shots from the Beijing games and describing what it was like to photographic from catwalks high above the venues.

And now for something completely different…
Had your fill of the “grandeur and majesty” sports photos? Looking for something a little more irreverent and offbeat? The U.K.’s Guardian newspaper has a great gallery of “Weird Olympic Photos” for your enjoyment. Shots of those odd little Olympic mascots in an apparent martial arts head-to-head and a selection of bad mustaches and worse swimwear on the Croatian national water polo team alone make a quick visit worth your trouble.

A more selective approach
Canada’s CBC is providing Olympic coverage for our friends north of the border, and their website ( features an extensive, regularly updated images section. As a rule, I think the CBC’s photo editorial team has done a little bit better job than some of their American counterparts in picking images that are photographically excellent in addition to providing journalistic interest. Coverage is obviously heavily shifted toward Canadian athletes, but the site has some great additional galleries of Beijing life and the Olympic venues, as well as a sport-by-sport image search function.

Human-interest stories
Finally, Canadian photographer Kris Krug has also shared a photoessay from the games. Entitled “Faces of Beijing” and featured on the Los Angeles Times blog, the images provide a unique, less competition-focused perspective on the happenings in Beijing.

These are just a few of the sites I’ve been following, been tipped off to, or stumbled upon in the last few weeks. If you have other favorites you’d like to share, be sure to drop a link in our discussion forums.


Round Up is a regular editorial column published weekly on

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