Post-Olympism? Questioning Sport in the Twenty-First Century

By John Bale; Mette Krogh Christensen | Go to book overview

Introduction: Post-Olympism?
John Bale and Mette Krogh Christensen

This book raises questions about the nature and future of achievement sport in the twenty-first century by focusing specifically on sport's high altar, the Olympic Games. The Olympics has become achievement sport in extremis. In this book we seek to look beyond Olympism, hence our title, Post-Olympism? (note the all-important question mark). We take ‘post-Olympism’ both literally and metaphorically. Some chapters do look towards the future, offering suggestive scenarios, but others look back (to the future?) to past Olympic events in order to evaluate their post-Olympic-ness, or to explore the effects that the Games have had on the places and spaces they have previously occupied. Additionally, several chapters reappraise the ways in which the Olympics has been conventionally written and researched.

A vast amount has been written about the modern Olympic Games. A bibliography of written works about the subject would turn out to be a tome in itself. Representations of the Olympics range across a huge spectrum from statistical gazetteers to sensitive biographies of Olympic heroes; from staid histories to sensational exposés; and from status quo reviews to neo-marxist critiques. The Olympics has been read as the global event where, by using the global currency of sports, lasting friendships are forged. The Games have also been interpreted as a modern version of ‘bread and circuses’ where athletes and spectators are duped by rampant commercialization (Brohm, 1978). Given the many and varied ways of representing the Olympics, it is hardly surprising that the interdisciplinary array of authors, whose writings feature in the following chapters, do not nail their flags to any single or particular philosophical mast. Some chapters support the Olympic ideal in principle but all are broadly critical, their critiques coming from various disciplinary, philosophical and ideological sources. More important, perhaps, is that each chapter has something thoughtprovoking to say about the Olympic Games as we enter the third millennium of their existence in modern form. And as befitting a post-Olympic book we also feel that it asks some new questions.

The prefix ‘post’, applied in recent decades to (at least) modernism, feminism and colonialism, is ambiguous. Several of this book's authors seek, in their

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