Sport and Society: History, Power and Culture

By Graham Scambler | Go to book overview
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The Modern Olympiads

There were several attempts to breathe new life into the Olympic Games between the demise of the ancient games and, approximately 1500 years later in 1896, the first of the new series of modern games in Athens. According to Redmond (1988), the earliest documented instance of what he calls 'pseudo-Olympics', that is, meetings utilizing an Olympic label, was Dover's Cotswold Games in early seventeenth-century England (see Chapter 2). While it is evident that Dover had no true aspiration to revive the Olympic Games, the allusions to the ancient pan-Hellenic festivals that his Cotswold Games engendered undoubtedly helped keep alive the memory of the ancient games at Olympia (Ruhl, 1985). Moreover, Redmond (1988: 74) suggests,

they are the most prominent example of the fact that long before 1896
or even the beginning of the nineteenth century, the adjective
'Olympic' (whether deliberate or deserved or not) was becoming the
most prized description for an athletic festival, embarking on its way
to represent the modern epitome of athletic excellence as well as of
ancient deeds.

References or allusions to the ancient Greek games were not uncommon in seventeenth-century Europe, but, with hindsight, it was from the early 1800s that the inexorable movement towards an international Olympic revival really began. Only a few of the more significant initiatives will be mentioned here. In 1834 what MacAloon (1981: 147) has termed 'the first true prototype of the modern Games', a pan-Scandinavian festival defined by the contemporary press as 'Olympic Games', was organized in Sweden by Gustav Schartau. Wrestling, jumping, climbing and running events were included, and the festival was held for a second but final time in 1836. In 1844 the 'Olympic Club' of Montreal organized a


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Sport and Society: History, Power and Culture


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