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

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

12
The Vulnerability Thesis and its
Consequences: A Critique of
Specialization in Olympic Sport
Sigmund Loland

Introduction

According to official Olympic ideology, the Olympic Games are festivals for the celebration of a series of values and ideals as expressed in the official ideology of Olympism. As it is stated in principle number 2 of the Olympic Charter:

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 found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles. 1

However, based on the development of the Games in the twentieth century, the idea of high performance sport as a sphere for culture and education has been seriously challenged. Olympic sport is among the most popular products on the international entertainment market. The Sydney 2000 Olympic Games were watched by 3.7 billion people in 220 countries and territories, making the Games the most televised in Olympic history, and the most watched sporting event in the world. 2 Critics argue that values and ideals of Olympism serve as a false ideology that covers rather harsh Olympic realities. The driving forces of the development are based on a cynical wrapping up of extraordinary athletic performances as commercial entertainment to reach external pay-offs in terms of profit and prestige, as exemplified in several chapters in this book.

In this chapter, I shall take a closer look at one particular value tension between the Olympic ideal of sport as ‘combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind’, and the high degree of specialization we find in a series of sports. The reason for my focus is that I believe that highly specialized demands on performance constitute one of the primary causes of the most serious moral problems facing high performance sport today; those linked to the development

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