12-012 Birth of the Modern Olympics II
Sunday May 19, 2013
Lead: There were several whose work led to the modern Olympic games, but the most prominent of the founders was a Frenchman, Baron Pierre de Coubertin. His persistence in the face of universal apathy brought the Olympics to re-birth.
Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.
Content: As a young man, Coubertin came under the allure of the Victorian English public school system. The portal through which he examined it was a French translation of Tom Brown’s Schooldays. It was romping fictional account of life at Rugby School in the 1830s by the school’s innovative headmaster, Thomas Hughes. Coubertin became a life-long devotee of the English emphasis on sport as an integral part of character development and an important part of basic education as a civilizing influence.
By the 1890s there had already been an attempt at reviving the Olympics in Greece led by Evangelis Zappas and physician William Penny Brookes had tried to get them started in England. Building on this experience Coubertin proposed to a meeting in 1892 of the Union des Sports Athlétiques that the Olympic Games be revived. “Let us export our oarsmen, our runners, our fencers into other lands,” he said, “That is the true Free Trade of the future.”
After two more years of personal effort he tried again, this time at a conference on international sport in Paris in June 1894. The vote for an International Olympic Committee was unanimous, but Coubertin’s suspicion, it was “chiefly to please” him. The first continuous modern games were inaugurated in April 1896 on Greek Independence Day in Athens.
Coubertin’s vision of a quadrennial non-political, amateur contest helping to promote education, the global spirit, and peace has gradually faded. Yet, the Olympics remain a powerful way in which, every two years, international rivalries for a brief time are turned from antagonism to friendship, from confrontation to juried competition.
Research assistance by Jed Kennedy, at the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.
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Grenier, Richard “Olympic Myths: the most celebrated information about the sport is that the Olympics in ancient times were an amateur affair” National Review, July 29, 1996 v48 n14 p52 (1). National Review Inc., 1996.
“History of the Modern Olympics” Australian Sports Web – Sport Information: Olympic Factsheets http://www.ausport.gov.au/info/factsheets/mod.html
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Young, David C. “The Origins of the Modern Olympics: A New Version,” International Journal of the History of Sport [Great Britain] 4 (3, 1987): 271-200.
Copyright 2013 by Dan Roberts Enterprises, Inc.
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