Academic journal article Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research

Olympic Values in the Twenty-First Century: Between Continuity and Change

Academic journal article Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research

Olympic Values in the Twenty-First Century: Between Continuity and Change

Article excerpt

Olympic values may be narrowly tied to the twentieth century and its values. Although modern organized sports had their beginning in the nineteenth century, they may be affirmed to have assumed their virtually universal popular character in the century following, particularly in the second half. On one hand, this was due to the expansion of western modernity, which we have witnessed in the last fifty years or so, and, on the other, to the global expansion of the Olympic Movement (OM). Therefore, we have considered the centrality of this Movement for globalization from a determined set of forms of sports practice and sports-related values.

A second reason resides in the fact that we have effectively passed through a time of highly accentuated changes, in which much thinking about the permanence and change of the values of the world in which we live points to a crisis of beliefs and suppositions on which the modern world supports itself.

To start with, I attempt, though briefly, to analyze so-called 'Olympic values' as a form of expression and possible configuration of humanism and western modernity. In the second part, from a review of what has been discussed regarding the change and/or crisis of values that guide the contemporary world, I attempt to examine factors that might indicate a possible reconfiguration of Olympic values. Finally, I analyze how the intellectual fundamentals of Olympism itself have furnished us elements for thinking about the permanence and relevance of Olympic values in the twenty-first century within a context of continuity and change. In this way, I seek to observe Olympic values in their process dimension.

Olympism and Modernity

Modernity is the product of the triumph of the humanistic and rationalistic theories that have given rise to the modern state and the idea of the individual as an autonomous entity; on one hand, it entails the regnum hominis--a humanistic vision that offers a non-reductionist and non-deterministic idea of the human being. (1) On the other hand, it is a movement that has made science, art and morality areas that are autonomous from religion. The resultant secularization of these three spheres has enabled the free accumulation of knowledge, modern art and the concept of universal moral principles.

At any rate, the belief in human reason has shown itself to be a great unifying force. The modern world has been dislocated towards an anthropocentric vision, with reason acting as the mediator between humankind and nature. The subject--not nature--has been set in place as the epistemological, ethical and ontological foundation to the degree in which the existence of things is conditioned to the ability to prove them. (2) This humanistic and rationalistic tradition has as its basic premise the possibilities of molding the human personality through education. Illuministic pedagogy has fully authorized trust in reason as the source of freedom and liberation. Education has the duty of perfecting human nature. Through education, human beings can realize their potential as free beings and can mold their own destiny and history.

Authors such as Sigmund Loland have cited Olympic values as a "secular and vitalistic" expression of western humanism. (3) However, evidence that they are also--or should be--the concretization of a social reform philosophy based on the educational value of sports is less recognized. For Coubertin, the Games have represented the institutionalization of the belief in sports as a moral and social undertaking. In this sense, they would be a 'pedagogical manifestation' of the values that have been attributed to the practice of sports. He labeled this set of values 'Olympism'.

As we know, if there is any academic consensus at all about Olympism, it resides in the fact that there is no sufficiently good definition as to what it is. Thus, possible agreements about what it might be can pass through more systematized academic developments to a more or less generic consensus derived from common sense. …

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