About the International Theatre Olympics


What is the Theatre Olympics?

A theatrical gathering created in Greece in 1995 in the spirit of tradition, modernity, and the ancient Olympics. The founders were renowned directors and playwrights from Greece, Japan, the USA, Spain, the UK, Russia, Germany and Brazil. From time to time, one of the largest and most prestigious events in world theatre finds a home in a particular city or country. The 2023 Olympics in Budapest will be the 10th in the history of Theatre Olympics.

"We have experienced very important things thanks to the Theatre Olympics since we left Dephoi, Greece. (...) We always try to find a leading theme for the Olympics, beside of course paying special attention to the cultural specificities of the host country. For example, the role of small and large communities and nations in a globalizing world can be an exciting topic these days. Nowadays, everyone is trying to get ahead individually, which threatens the particular values of peoples and nations. It works against diversity. It is our duty to cherish our collective treasures. I believe that with the Theatre Olympics we are building cultural bridges that will help us understand each other better."

„There were two aspects to our launching of the Theatre Olympics. (…) with the spread of globalization, there came a trend to think that economic stability for the country was more important than that spiritual value and it became harder for theater people to do theater. (…) The other aspect was the situation in the world at the time. (…) At the time, when the Greek theatre director Terzopoulos (current Chairman of the International Theatre Olympics Committee) came to Japan, he said when the Cold War ended they thought Europe was headed toward peace, but it didn’t happen that way. He said there was a terrible situation with things like ethnic strife, and it lead to huge numbers of refugees. Amid the political instability, people were hurt and losing hope. And he concluded that it was frustrating for artists to be unable to do anything in this situation. That being the case, he said we should band together as artists and do things with a kind of love that transcends barriers of nationality.”

The founders of the Theatre Olympics

Theodoros Terzopoulos (1945)

Greek director, founder of the Attis Theatre. He came up with the idea of the Theatre Olympics and still supervises the organisation process, with the assent of the Committee. He became world famous as an interpreter of ancient Greek drama with a new perspective. He developed his own actor training method under the name Return of Dionysus.

Suzuki Tadashi (1939)

Japanese director, teacher, philosopher. Founder and director of the Suzuki Company of Toga (SCOT). He developed his own theatre method. He was the main organizer of the 1999 Japanese Olympics and co-organizer of the 2019 Russian-Japanese Olympics.

Robert Wilson (1941)

American director, visual artist and trend-setting theatre-maker. His unique visual style has been a major influence on European theatre since the 1970s. He runs The Watermill Center in New York, where young people from all over the world attend his courses.

Núria Espert (1935)

Actor, director, theatre manager, founder of the Sala Municipal Theatre in Barcelona. She is one of the most influential theatre and opera directors of Spain.

Tony Harrison (1937)

A leading figure in contemporary English poetry and an outstanding playwright. He has directed his most important productions at the National Theatre of London, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Metropolitan Opera.

Yuri Lyubimov (1917-2014)

Founder of the world-famous Taganka in Moscow, he was a leading figure in Russian cultural life. His spectacular, unconventional and often sharply political performances were a symbol of artistic freedom and a search for new paths. He also directed several productions in Hungary.

Heiner Müller (1929–1995)

Poet, essayist, theatre theorist and one of the most prominent (East) German playwrights of the second half of the 20th century. At the end of his life, he was Director of the Berliner Ensemble, founded by Bertolt Brecht.

Antunes Filho (1929–2019)

Director, theatre theorist, teacher. One of the leading figures in the aesthetic and political revival of Brazilian theatre in the 1960s and 70s. Generations of actors studied at the Centro de Pesquisas Teatrais (Centre for Theatre Research), which he founded and managed until his death.

Olympic cities and messages
  • 1995 – Delphoi (Greece) – Crossing Millennia
  • 1999 – Shizuoka (Japan) – Creating Hope
  • 2001 – Moscow (Russia) – Theatre for the People
  • 2006 – Istanbul (Turkey) – Beyond Borders
  • 2010 – Seoul (South Korea) – Love and Humanity
  • 2014 – Beijing (China) – Dream
  • 2016 – Wrocław (Poland) – The World as a Place of Truth
  • 2018 – New Delhi (India) – Flag of Friendship
  • 2019 – St Petersburg (Russia) – Toga (Japan) – Creating Bridges
  • 2023 – Budapest (Hungary) – O Man, strive on, strive on, have faith; and trust! – O Man, strive on, strive on, have faith; and trust!
Festival figures
The first festival in Delphoi featured only 9 performances from 7 countries in about two weeks. The 1999 Theatre Olympics in Japan, which lasted two months, attracted 42 productions from 20 countries, while the grand 2001 Moscow Festival invited 97 productions from 32 countries over two and a half months. The 2018 Olympics in India went even further, with some 470 performances from 35 countries. The 2019 Olympics had 2 capitals, i.e. the Russian metropolis of St Petersburg and the small Japanese city of Toga, the theatre centre of Olympic founder Suzuki Tadashi. The Hungarian Olympics will host 400 companies from 58 countries, with around 750 performances in more than 100 venues – in Budapest and throughout Hungary.
Who organises the Olympics?

The organisation that safeguards the spirit of the International Theatre Olympics and supervises the organisation of each Olympics is called the International Committee. It includes the founding members who are still active, and there are always new members: the organisers of previous Olympics also become members of the Committee. At the Committee’s request, the Olympics of a given year is directed and organised by a leading theatre personality from the country concerned. Attila Vidnyánszky, head of the National Theatre, has been invited by the Committee to organise the 2023 events in Budapest and Hungary.