Selling the Munich ’72 Olympics

As we prepare our special Olympics issue, one of the most interesting finds we’ve encountered is the official Munich ’72 merchandise catalogue. It reveals that the Munich Games was as keen to capitalise on its image as any modern Olympics…

As we prepare our special Olympics issue, one of the most interesting finds we’ve encountered is the official Munich ’72 merchandise catalogue, courtesy of Ian McLaren who worked for Otl Aicher’s design team. Here, the famous ‘wreath of rays’ emblem is applied to a whole range of products, revealing that the Munich Games was as keen to capitalise on its image as any modern Olympics…

The catalogue was made in 1971 by the Hamburg company, Fahnen-Fleck. The firm produced some of the Munich ’72 promotional items contained within (flags, banners, embroidered badges and textiles) and designed everything else through its newly formed Olympic Souvenir department, headed up by Sigrid Schüler.

The company’s current owner Andreas Fleck in fact provided the PDF of the 1972 catalogue you see here (while McLaren kindly let us photograph his original copy for the forthcoming issue). Fleck tells us that his father Heinz was an adviser to the Olympic Committee in Munich, and responsible for the marketing, design and distribution of the official souvenirs. Olympic Souvenir then licensed other German companies to make the products.

According to McLaren’s correspondence with former Munich colleague Nick Roericht, the only souvienir designed directly by Aicher’s studio was Waldi, the official mascot of the Games. Waldi’s creation was overseen by Elena Winschermann. Roericht recalls that Aicher apparently agreed to design the mascot “because of its symbolic statement,” but that, “he couldn’t get used to the idea of designing all these unfunctional things”. Hence Waldi appears in the official Munich Design Manual, but the other souvenirs do not.

Compared to the sports, cultural and ‘artists’ posters produced for the ’72 Olympics, the famous pictograms and the sunburst emblem, the merchandise reveals a different side to the Munich Games, but one that ultimately remained under the control of Aicher’s design guidelines for using the logotype and symbol.

But for me it’s certainly an eye-opener that one of the Games most celebrated for its rational, modernist approach, with its inflections of the Bauhaus and the Ulm school directly influencing Aicher’s Munich studio model, also found a space for inflatable Waldis, vinyl records, umbrellas, tumblers, aprons, matchbooks, keyrings, even ceramic candle holders.

Aicher’s aim had been to bring a sense of lightness and optimism to the Munich Games, ridding the spectre of the 1936 Olympics in the process. So in a way, while the commercial reality of the Games is on show in the catalogue, it’s also its  playful side Games, epitomised in the page of Waldi-related material (a nod to the wooden toys of the Bauhaus), which comes through.

The August issue of CR, our Olympics special, features an interview with Munich designer Ian McLaren. The exhibition Munich ’72 is on now at the Herbert Read Gallery at UCA Canterbury. CR’s Olympics issue is out July 25

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Packaging Designer

Parragon Books


Birmingham City University

Communications Editor

National Union of Teachers


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