Coubertin Quote for Oct, 22
The primary, fundamental characteristic of ancient Olympism, and of modern Olympism as well, is that it is a religion.Share
In August of 1935, at the age of 72, Baron Pierre de Coubertin sat before a microphone at a radio station in Geneva and delivered a long disquisition on “The Philosophical Foundations of Modern Olympism.” His purpose was to explain the true meaning, nature and character of the modern Olympic Games and the worldwide sporting movement that sustains them. While he often characterized sport as a modern religion, he had no intention of competing with the great faiths, but he did seek to borrow their ineffable characteristics. In this quote, he asserts that the Olympic Games have, indeed, seized upon the spiritual dimension of sport and fused it with patriotism and a code of honor, creating an alchemy of emotional forces that is uplifting and sometimes magical. Anyone who has been to the Olympic Games has felt it, a palpable spirit in the air that is full of hope and promise for all humanity. By bringing together all the nations of the world, the Baron thought the common ground beneath the flame would seem sacred. It did in his day, and still does today—just as it did for the ancient athletes who gathered in Olympia. In the longer passage below, he explains how similar our modern religion of sport is to that of our ancestors.
“As the founder and honorary president of the Olympic Games, I was asked to present the first of the messages to be broadcast by radio that will explain the meaning of the Games. I was quick to accept this honor. I believe that the best way to go about this is to present my initial thoughts and the philosophical foundations on which I tried to base my work. The primary, fundamental characteristic of ancient Olympism, and of modern Olympism as well, is that it is a religion. By chiseling his body through exercise as a sculptor does a statue, the ancient athlete "honored the gods.” In doing likewise, the modern athlete honors his country, his race, and his flag. Therefore, I believe that I was right to restore, from the very beginning of modern Olympism, a religious sentiment transformed and expanded by the internationalism and democracy that are distinguishing features of our day. Yet this is the same religious sentiment that led the young Hellenes, eager for the victory of their muscles, to the foot of the altars of Zeus.”