Customer Stories: GB Olympians Association

‘Once an Olympian, Always an Olympian’ –  the motto of the GB Olympians Association.

The GB Olympians Association is an organization comprised of current and former Olympians. Anyone who’s ever competed for Team GB in a Summer or Winter games is automatically a member. GB Olympians is dedicated to celebrating and supporting its members and spreading the Olympic spirit throughout communities.

Solopress was honoured to work with GB Olympians recently, and we were keen to learn more about their work and how print came to play a part in their story.

L-R Amanda Lightfoot OLY (Biathlon), Kate Haywood OLY (Swimming, Beijing 2008 & London 2012), Shirley Addison (née Webb) OLY (Athletics, Hammer, Athens 2004), Lou Collins OLY (Athletics, Sprints, Seoul 1988), Aly Dixon OLY (Athletics, Marathon, Rio 2016), Stephanie Proud OLY (Swimming, London 2012).

The origins of the GB Olympians Association

Rising to represent your country in the Olympic Games is an achievement that deserves lifelong recognition. GB Olympians is a partner organization to Team GB and automatically enrols anyone who’s ever participated in the games under their banner.

The idea to form an association for all Olympians across the globe was first introduced at the IOC Centennial Congress in Paris in 1994, and the World Olympians Association (WOA) was formed in Atlanta two years later.

The WOA now recognizes 96 separate National Olympians Associations (NOAs) across the world, including the GB Olympians Association (GBOA) here in the UK. GBOA works closely with the WOA as well as the British Olympic Association (BOA), the organization that sends Team GB athletes to Olympic Games.


On the right track

The GBOA is a network organisation run by volunteer Olympians, for other Olympians, whether they’re continuing to pursue their sporting careers, stepping down from elite competition or have retired altogether. There are currently around 3,000 members, from competitors in the 1948 London games through to the most recent graduates of Tokyo 2020 (held in 2021).

Crucially, GBOA helps Olympians to recognise the extensive skill set that they develop as elite athletes and then supports them to use those skills as widely as possible within and beyond sport.  Some will remain in sports coaching, while others have been supported to achieve qualifications to audit sport settings.

For some, their impact will be away from their chosen sport, for example in their communities, for charities or in campaigning. A great example is ‘OLY Earth+’ an environmental sustainability programme that has been launched by GB Olympians, with GBOA support, this summer, or the fundraising that Hannah Macleod OLY is delivering on GBOA’s behalf, by running the 2021 London Marathon in support of Mental Health charity MIND.

For all British Olympians, GBOA is there to connect and engage so that they are each encouraged, in their own way, to help to spread the ethos of Olympism.

Sara Parfett OLY, CEO of the WOA Mike Miller, Ed Clancy OLY OBE and Lucy Glover OLY crouch in front of the assembled Olympians in Warrington.


From Jesse Owens’ success at the Berlin games in 1936 to Barshim and Tamberi sharing the high jump gold in Tokyo, there’s a spirit that runs through the Olympics that transcends the world of sport. The founder of the modern Olympics in 1896, Pierre de Coubertin, summed up his intentions when he said:

“Olympism seeks to create a way of life-based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of a good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles”

In the years since, the idea of Olympism has developed significantly. The IOC currently sets out seven “Fundamental Principles of Olympism”. They make for an inspiring read that can be found on page twelve of the Olympic Charter, but they’re also helpfully summed up through the seven core Olympic and Paralympic values:

  • Courage
  • Determination
  • Equality
  • Excellence
  • Friendship
  • Inspiration
  • Respect

The GB Olympians Association takes these values, along with the World Olympians’ Association (WOA) value of Integrity, as a handy summation of what Olympism means.

These principles of Olympism are central to the efforts of GB Olympians. In addition to supporting the careers and wellbeing of members, GB Olympians also pursues a mission to encourage and enable their members to carry that message of social cohesion and inclusivity into their communities. Through events and school visits and conferences, the GBOA is able to inspire young people and spread Olympism beyond the world of elite sport.


Passing on the baton

Reunion events are always a highlight for members, and bringing Olympians together is key for the GBOA. As well as the work the association does directly to support Olympians, a lot of the magic happens when members can support one another. Events allow older members to share their experiences and advise younger members. Sadly, these events become difficult to organise under Covid restrictions.


Roller Banners take a ‘Tour of Britain’

So it was with a great sense of relief and celebration that members were able to come together at the eight-stage finishes of the Cycling Tour of Britain. The race started in Bodmin on the 5th of September travelling through Exeter, Carmarthen, Llandudno, Warrington, Gateshead, Edinburgh – before finishing in Aberdeen on the 12th.

It was this opportunity that led Lou Collins OLY from the GB Olympic Association to contact Solopress. When it came to making their presence felt at eight different locations, Lou needed a display solution that was collapsible and portable, but big enough to make their presence felt.


The Premium option

We decided that Premium Roller Banners from Solopress would be durable enough to take the punishment of eight days on the road, and offer the visual impact needed to promote the GBOA’s presence at the Tour. Quick and easy install, they’d be ideal to set up and take down at the end of the day, ready to transport to the finish line of the next day’s stage

On working with Solopress Lou commented:

“Solopress has been a delight to work with! Ordering was really straightforward, and we have been delighted with the quality of the banners.  They’ve coped brilliantly with being moved more than 1,300km over 8 days and have been a genuinely eye-catching focal point at each of this year’s Cycling Tour of Britain stage finishes.”


Back in the saddle

Ethan Hayter OLY receives his OLY certificate and pin having retained the leader’s jersey after Stage 7 in Edinburgh.

Despite GB’s Ethan Hayter OLY narrowly missing out to the Belgian national champion and Tokyo silver medallist, Wout Van Aert OLY, the tour was a great success for GB Olympians. Across the eight days, a total of 98 GB Olympians from Summer and Winter Games were able to be recognised and celebrated by the crowds who had gathered at each stage finish. Attendees representing Games as far back as Tokyo 1964, right up to a handful from Tokyo 2020 were able to come together, reconnect with old friends and meet new ones, sharing stories and experiences that all support them in continuing the good work of inspiring others.

Since 2017, the association has encouraged the addition of the letters ‘OLY’ after the names of current and former Olympians in recognition of their participation in the games. The post-nominal letters have been adopted by high-profile Brits including Lord Sebastian Coe OLY, Sir Mo Farah OLY and Dame Kelly Holmes OLY. The Tour of Britain events granted GB Olympians the opportunity to present OLY celebratory pins in person to over 90 of its members.

Clockwise from top left: Lucy Parfett OLY receives her OLY from Mike Miller, CEO of the WOA; Peter Kendrew OLY awarded his OLY by Maria Porter (née Blower) OLY; Harry Leask and Mick Bennet receiving OLYs from Mike Miller.

Providing a backdrop

The Premium Roller Banners were able to provide instant recognition for GBOA members as well as introducing the association to hundreds of new sports fans. Throughout proceedings, the Roller Banners offered a rallying point, a promotional tool and a photo opportunity all in one place. One of the Banners has even become a collector’s item!

“We’ve abused one Banner, by asking GB Olympians to sign all over it they loved that and we think it looks great! It makes a fantastic keepsake from this year’s event.”

The banner in question is pictured at the top of this article with Ed Clancy OLY, OBE, competitor at 4 separate Olympic Games, three-time Gold Medal winner and Team Pursuit World Record holder – so we’re certainly not complaining about the ‘abuse’!

Lisa Brambini OLY, four-time National Road Race Champion who represented Team GB in Seoul, signs the Roller Banner

The next stages

Following the success of their presence at the Cycling Tour Of Britain, Lou Collins OLY is keen to push forward with GB Olympians at other events, including the annual Westminster Mile and the London Marathon and of course the Tour Of Britain again in 2022.

With each coming event, GB Olympians will be supported by Solopress Banners, setting the scene and creating the perfect backdrop. We also hope to be collaborating with GBOA on further printed materials including an eight-page leaflet in the coming year.


More Olympics, more Olympians…

And of course, for GB Olympians, enrolment keeps on rolling. Having just overseen the new intake of Summer Olympians following the Tokyo games, GB Olympians is already working with Team GB to welcome the intake that will result from the Winter Olympics in Beijing, scheduled to commence in February 2022.

We wish Lou, the GBOA and all our past and present Olympians the very best in their future endeavours. If you want to go some way to emulate the medal-winning success of our Olympic heroes, we have a choice of Roller Banners to suit all budgets. We also carry a broad range of print products that help you give a world-beating performance at events, conference and exhibitions.