Coubertin Quote for Mar, 25
Enthusiasm for physical exercises spread with irresistible power. There was no need to invoke memories of Greece or to seek encouragement from the past. People like sports for sports' sake.Share
In October of 1890, Baron Pierre de Coubertin was the guest of honor at a special edition of the Olympian Games of Much Wenlock, a small village in Shropshire, England not far from the Welsh border. He attended at the invitation of Dr. William Penny Brookes, an enthusiastic proponent of sport and games, who had, for forty years, produced an annual athletic festival combing Olympic and Medieval sports for his townsfolk. In Much Wenlock, where medals were awarded to the victors by gowned maidens and the people took part with enthusiastic joy, Coubertin witnessed the power of ancient games come to life. Brookes, who was 81 at the time, became an immediate mentor to Coubertin and pushed him along the path that led directly to the launch of the modern Olympic Games four years later. In December of 1890, Coubertin published an account of his experience, ‘The Olympic Games at Much Wenlock: A Page from the History of Athletics’ in La Revue Athlétique, in which he recounted Brooke’s effort to nationalize his local festival—and the resulting impact of the spread of sport across England.
“An effort was made about 1866 to expand and generalize the Olympic Games. A festival was held at the Crystal Palace in London that year, one that was repeated the following year in Birmingham and then in Shrewsbury, if memory serves. This movement served a purpose. It gave supporters of athleticism an opportunity to get together and get a count of themselves. Soon, though, enthusiasm for these physical exercises spread with irresistible power. There was no need to invoke memories of Greece or to seek encouragement from the past. People like sports for sports' sake.”
The photo—from the collection of the Wenlock Olympian Society—shows Dr. Brookes, third from right at a Much Wenlock Olympic medals ceremony in the 1880s.