The Most Celebrated Modern Sports Event

Categories: ReligionSports

Performances almost assume the role of “folk lore” and thus can be recalled by different persons in various ways over time.

The most celebrated modern sports event, the Olympic Games, obviously has the word ‘game’ in its name and it represents the ultimate refinement of people’s propensity to engage in sports and games as so ably described by Huizenga.

In early sporting contests organized by the ancient Greeks at Olympia, only the names of the winners were recorded. Their times or distances achieved were not measured, and neither were the names of the other competitors.

So we must ask ourselves were these, then, games or sports? If we apply the ethos contained within the tenets within traditional sports and games then the answer is obviously “Yes”. However we now know that sporting prowess is not the only rationale behind the Olympic movement, either now or during Ancient times. The educational element was as important, if not more so, than that of the sporting success displayed by participants in the Panhellenic Games held at Olympia.

Great significance was placed on both physical and spiritual teaching (in Greek, kalos kagathos) during the more than one thousand year continuance of these Ancient Games. If examined from today’s perspective we would similarly recognise these events as typical sporting competitions or meetings.

Huizinga was primarily studying the relationship between play and culture as well as social and scientific life. He believed that play was a primitive phenomenon that could be the first step towards civilised culture.

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He also went so far as to suggest that culture originated from play: “Play is the greatness given to culture, existing before the culture itself, interwoven in human living from the very beginning up to the individual experiencing it by each of us, even the research”. Huizinga also claimed that play does not simply have a biological or psychological aspect but it should be seen as a cultural act which served as a foundation for great civilizations (much like Ancient Greece through the Olmypics). This was also a theory of Eugeniusz Piasecki however they had never met each other but they both supported the idea that play is the source of culture. Referring back to de Coubertin, he did realise that the renewal of the games could greatly benefit the French civilisation, after witnessing Arnold’s work at Rugby School which encouraged the spread of sports across England and de Coubertin recognised many advantages in this movement, including the expansion of British power throughout the nineteenth Century and the increased physical prowess of the British armed forces.

As France had recently suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Prussians in 1871 de Coubertin immediately saw the benefit of encouraging greater physical prowess across the French nation and particularly throughout the French Army. He realised that this movement would lead to a training establishment that encouraged both physical and intellectual development as it did for the Ancient Greeks for over 1000 years.

J. Moller was an academic expert in Traditional sports and games. He was heavily involved in a number of major projects within the field and was dedicated to a comparative study of European regions. From this project he noted five aspects that help to answer the question: “what made traditional sports and games lose or preserve their meaning?” Moller debated that Huizinga was incorrect in arguing that modern economic and political forces greatly affect position of play. Moller believed industrialization, was simply not a reason for the disappearance of the ancient games. Rather, other factors such as modern sport and its organization with the ‘sportification process’ wiped out the previous original games. For Moller it was religion , cultural diversity and identity which maintained stronger ties among the population as they struggle for their own culture, independence, and where they care for traditions as a means of identification in the creation of an identity within their own nation. The people coming forth with cultural initiative are not only people from rural communities, but they are also intellectuals, professionals and civil servants “who attempt to keep local culture alive and with it the ancient games” .

The involvement and reporting of the Royal Family during the 1908 and 1948 Games.

During the 1908 Games the British Royal Family took a very keen interest in the Olympic Games, with the Princess of Wales and her children driving from their homeat Frogmore to watch the start of the Marathon from outside Windsor Castle. QueenAlexandria had personally requested that the marathon commence from beneath the windows of the Royal Nursery at Windsor Castle. The Italian Dorando Pietri was initially awarded first place in the marathon, but later disqualified when it was reported that he had been helped over the line by officials due to his exhaustion. The Gold Medal was subsequently awarded to the American runner, John Hayes. Queen Alexandria who had previously called for Pietri to be helped due to his extreme exhaustion, unaware that such help would lead to his disqualification, was so moved by Pietri’s predicament that she then awarded him a special gold cup for his performance

By contrast during the 1948 Games the involvement of the King, George VI was only ceremonial. Beyond formally announcing the start of the Games the King’s involvement was minimal. For example he refused permission for the Royal Coat of Arms to be displayed on Olympic programs of events claiming “that the Games are not of national importance or in any way connected to the Royal House” ..

How the 1908 and 1948 Games were reported differently. During the 1908 Games there was much bickering between the British and United States teams. One of the most widely reported incidents were the efforts of three American competitors in the 400m event to block the passage of the sole British runner Lt Wyndham Halswelle. One of the American competitors, John Carpenter was later disqualified and the scandal was instrumental in the establishment four years later of the International Amateur Athletic Association formed to regulate the sport. Other American protests, regarding Sunday observance, or the use by the British team of illegal equipment kept negative stories about the bad blood between the two teams in the newspapers. The criticism of the British by the American team even led to the publication of a book by the British, “Replies to Criticisms of the Olympic Games, the old fashioned and traditional response to the young and boastful” . By the time of the 1948 Games technology had obviously moved on allowing extensive coverage of the Games to be reported on television, radio and sound films and newspapers. These were the first Games to be reported this widely and enabled coverage of the event to be much more widely disseminated around the world. At the start of the Games over 2000 foreign journalists attended, the largest number ever assembled at one place. The most glowing leading articles appeared even from the ranks of the bitterest critics. The Foreign Office paid for a party of German sports writers to attend, as part of their “Re-education of Germany programme.”

Team managers however were suspicious of the press, viewing them more as dangerous gossip-mongers rather than allies. They had little understanding of how a good story could be used to raise a national profile.

The Olympic Movement has become linked to the mantra “All games, all nations”, providing as it does as a rallying call for developing greater intercultural contact and improving international relations. The founder of the modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin defined the term “Internationalism” and other basic benchmarks (the ideas of equal opportunity, fair-play, and reconciliation ) as part of the Olympic Ideal. Today the idea of “Internationalism” has evolved within the dialogue of the Olympic Movement, not only during the Games themselves, with the Games being the manifestation of the sporting, cultural, and media peak of the four-year-circle.

The idea of an increasing Internationalism also plays a core role in many national and international Olympic programs as well. For example, it is a main component of the ethos of the International Olympic Academy (IOA), which is located close to the site of the Ancient Games at Olympia. The IOA maintains a comprehensive program of lectures, conferences and outreach programs across many nations, aimed at encapsulating and spreading the fundamental elements of de Coubertin’s idea of what constituted the idea of Olympism.

The term “Internationalism” which is a core component of the idea of Olympism can be explained and and used in many different disciplines. It is increasingly used within the realms of politics, social science, or philosophy and within many areas of science. In the main, this concept enjoys a positive reputation, especially in a cultural sense. As well as “Internationalism” the concept of “Interculturalism” has developed into a movement celebrating the exchange of cultural traditions among different cultures. “Interculturalism” encourages the recognition of the ideas and traditions of other cultures, including their beliefs, rituals and way of thinking, as a way of developing a greater understanding between peoples of different lands, religions or beliefs. The underlying ethos promotes this goal as a basis for a peaceful coexistence between peoples by concentrating on the understanding of the common goals rather than the differences between different cultural groupings. Both concepts of Internationalism and Interculturalism , emphasise common beliefs, principles, and overlapping ideals. Because of their relevance to enhancing international understanding both concepts were discussed and analysed during a conference investigating cultural and institutional traditions at the Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz on May 22, 2009. After the conclusion of the symposium, a comprehensive report ‘Internationalism in the Olympic Movement: Idea and Reality between Nations, Cultures, and People’ was published in an effort to further promote efforts to seek solutions to global challenges.

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