Coubertin Quote for Jan, 16
Healthy democracy and peaceful internationalism are elements of moral strength that must guide the renaissance of athletics.Share
When I began collecting Coubertin quotes in earnest, digging deeper into his writings, I was surprised at how often he linked sport to democracy. I shouldn’t have been surprised. He wasn’t simply an education reformer, he was a political reformer—and he believed that modern democracy was the best model to achieve equality for all. Across his career, he was constantly striving to make a contribution to the social peace by building a better society for all citizens. To Coubertin, that meant engaging in sport. He believed the core lessons of sport—cooperation, teamwork, understanding individual roles, working toward a common goal—were essential in preparing young people to become good citizens, to take their place among their peers and strengthen the democracies emerging all over the world. This quote is a classic example of his approach to linking democracy and sport and peace in a movement toward a new future.
He delivered these words in a speech to the Parnassus Literary Society in Athens, Greece in November of 1894. He had traveled to Athens to build support for the 1896 Olympic Games, which had encountered some political opposition. In Athens, of course, he was appealing to an audience that took great pride in the fact that their Greek ancestors had given birth to both democracy and the Olympic Games.
“Gentlemen, this is the order of ideas from which I intend to draw the elements of moral strength that must guide and protect the renaissance of athletics. Healthy democracy and wise and peaceful internationalism will make their way into the new stadium. There they will glorify the honor and selflessness that will enable athletics to carry out its task of moral betterment and social peace, as well as physical development. That is why every four years the restored Olympic Games must provide a happy and fraternal meeting place for the youth of the world, a place where, gradually, the ignorance of each other in which people live will disappear. This ignorance perpetuates ancient hatreds, increases misunderstandings, and precipitates such barbaric events as fights to the finish.”
The Neo-Olympism: Appeal to the People of Athens,
Le Messager d’Athènes, 1894