IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

The Olympic Movement and Peace

This is something about which I am just a touch skeptical, but I thought it merited some attention because the Olympics are such a high-profile event.   Certainly, before commercialization raised its not so pretty head on the scale we have now, the Olympics was definitely about “peace and understanding”; and these ideals are still (somewhere) at the core of the movement.  For instance, the Olympic Charter (in force since 2007) starts with these “Fundamental Principles of Olympism:

“Fundamental Principles of Olympism
1. Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of
body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a
way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for
universal fundamental ethical principles.
2. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man,
with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.
3. The Olympic Movement is the concerted, organised, universal and permanent action, carried
out under the supreme authority of the IOC, of all individuals and entities who are inspired by
the values of Olympism. It covers the five continents. It reaches its peak with the bringing
together of the world’s athletes at the great sports festival, the Olympic Games. Its symbol is
five interlaced rings.
4. The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising
sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual
understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. The organisation, administration
and management of sport must be controlled by independent sports organisations.
5. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion,
politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.
6. Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter and
recognition by the IOC.”

Apparently peace is mentioned at least three times in the Charter, so the link is clear at that level.   I also found this article explaining in some detail the connection between peace and the modern Olympic movement.   Here, for instance, is an indicative quote from Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937), one of the Founders of the modern movement:

“Wars break out because nations misunderstand each other. We shall
no have peace until the prejudices which now separate the different races
shall have been outlived. To attain this end, what better means than to
bring the youth of all countries periodically together for amicable trials
of muscular strength and agility? “

He also wrote something called “Ode to Sport” which deals with this theme:

“O Sport, You are Peace!

You forge happy bonds between the peoples

by drawing them together in reverence for strength

which is controlled, organised and self disciplined.

Through you the young of the entire world

learn to respect one another,

and thus the diversity of national traits becomes a source

of generous and peaceful emulation! “

If I try to be objective, I can still see this important part of the Olympic movement, but it’s not always easy.  As the reasonable Wikipedia article points out, there are grounds for critiquing the IOC and some of  its more recent actions (corruption issues) and decisions (selling the Olympic brand).  Still, if you watch the country teams coming into the stadium at the beginning, or going out at the end (forget about the mandatory blockbuster shows) you can still feel that universal spirit that makes the Olympics different from other high level sports competitions.

Will commercialization eventually kill off that spirit?  I certainly hope not, but my personal feeling is that it could if corrective action is not taken.

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May 26, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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