Saturday, 31 July 2004

Citius, Altius, Nummatius

Faster, Higher, Richer is the motto (more or less) of the modern Olympic Games, which were devised by Pierre de Coubertin at the end of the nineteenth century in imitation of those held in ancient Greece, and since revised in accordance with today’s tastes. Many of the traditions of the original Games – cheating, corruption, greed – have been carefully preserved, but some have had to be modified: the participants are no longer exclusively naked slaves, and women are now allowed to watch (and even to participate!).

Now, as then, the Games serve the function of uniting nations in friendly competition and thus reducing international tension and the risk of conflict; the 1936 Olympics in Berlin ensured that Europe would never again face anything like the horrors of 1914-18.

De Coubertin had picked up the English concept of amateurism (“gentlemen” and “players”), some aspects of which persisted in the Olympics until the 1980s. Juan Antonio Samaranch, a former bureaucrat in Franco’s fascist regime, then became the president of the International Olympic Committee and, as vast sums were raised through sponsorship and in TV deals, professionalism came back to the Games for the first time since the days of the naked slaves.

Provided you don’t mind mixing with some pretty unsavoury characters and watching some fairly boring sporting events, participating in the world of the Olympic Games can be interesting and enjoyable. I was professionally involved in them (not as an athlete, I need hardly add) for ten years or so, and have some happy memories; here's a nice picture of my wife Anne at the opening ceremony in Barcelona, cheering for the Canadian team (she had lived in Ottawa for a time) . That's me clapping on the left, inspired by her enthusiasm.


Anonymous said...

Must be the VIP section. You seem to be sitting behind Rod Stewart.

Tony said...

Of course it was the VIP section - where else would Anne and I sit? Who is Rod Stewart?

lawyerchik1 said...

What an awesome experience!!