Essences of Post-Olympism:
A Prolegomena of Study
Pierre de Coubertin wrote of the Olympic Games of 1896:
It is … difficult to know why and how an idea is born – emerges from the tide of other ideas which await realization, takes on substance and becomes fact. This however is not the case regarding the Olympic Games. (Coubertin, 1966 , p. 108)
He goes on to explain that the idea of the Olympic Games revival was not a ‘passing fancy’ but the logical culmination of a great movement (Coubertin, 1966 , p. 108). In this third millennium, I think that we can agree that whatever its faults and complexities, the Olympic Games have been a great movement. However, I want to begin my chapter by disagreeing with Coubertin's idea that the Games are not a passing fancy. I want to claim that perhaps we should consider the Olympics in our post-age to be a kind of once-every-fouryears (in tribute to the ancient Greeks) passing fancy, one in which people, athletes, spectators, collectors – ‘players all’ as Bob Rinehart (1998) refers to them – get to create, invent traditions and remake the Olympic Games. Some involved in the post-Olympic Games will be athletes – the best in this world; others will be watchers or shoppers, some will compose rules of contests while they watch the games, others might design computer/virtual games at special game design chambers. In this chapter, I identify what I call ‘essences’ of which such post-Olympism and Olympic Games are composed. The essences I discuss within include performativity, aesthetics, transcendence and acceleration. My writings about these essences are preliminary, a prolegomena for the study of post-Olympism.
Imagine then, a post-Olympism that connotes nothing of nationalism, which celebrates essences of sport such as competition, beauty, sacrifice, awe, extreme performance, coming community, fantasy. What would such Olympic games be like?