The Culture and Arts Programme of the New Zealand Olympic Committee promotes Culture and Arts within sport and Olympism and establishes cultural programmes related to the Olympic Movement.

Sport and Culture in Ancient Greece

The Ancient Greeks treated sport and culture as a whole, expressing the need for parallel development of body and mind. Olympia had a wealth of artworks such as temples, statues, hymns, paeans and odes in connection to the Games.

The Nemean Games featured poetry and music (kithara) competitions in parallel with the sports events, in honour of Zeus.

The Isthmian Games, celebrated in honour of Poseidon, also included cultural competitions, mainly drama and music.

All the sacred cities and sites of Ancient Greece are built around three essential symbols: the temple for religion, the theatre, symbolising culture, and the stadium for sports. For Greek civilisation, these were inseparable elements. While athletes took part in sports competitions, poets, sculptors and painters took part in the cultural events associated with the Games.

The Pythian Games were the most important after the Olympic Games. Originally, they were a musical competition in honour of Apollo, the god of music.

During the classical era, poetry and drama competitions were added to the programme, along with sports events. Beginning in the Hellenistic period, women also took part in the musical competitions. Eventually the organisers added dance competitions and, in the Roman period, pantomime contests. These cultural events were the most important of all the pan-Hellenic gatherings.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin's high aspirations for both sport and culture inspired him from the beginning to hold sports and cultural events in parallel as in the tradition of the ancient Greeks. What sets the Olympic Games apart from all other sports events is their direct link with culture, without which the Olympic Games would lose their very essence, for sport and culture are the pillars of Olympism.