Sportive Nationalism and
On 25 November 1892, at a meeting of the Union des Sports Athlétiques in Paris, Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic movement, declared: ‘Let us export our oarsmen, our runners, our fencers into other lands. That is the true Free Trade of the future, and the day it is introduced into Europe the cause of Peace will have received a new and strong ally’ (Anon., 1992, p. 198). This proposal to invent and implement a symbolic version of free trade on behalf of international relations reminds us that Coubertin's Olympic project remains among the most durable monuments of the early phase of what we may call modern globalization (Hoberman, 1995). The Olympic movement originated, in fact, in a fin-de-siècle world that anticipated our own age of globalization in important ways.
‘Perhaps the greatest myth about globalization’, Nicholas D. Kristof (1999) notes, ‘is that it is new’ (see also Stille, 2001). By the end of the nineteenth century, as Harold James points out, ‘the world was highly integrated economically, through mobility of capital, information, goods and people. Capital moved freely between states and continents. The movement of capital would not have been possible without improved mechanisms for spreading news and ideas’ (James, 2001, p. 10). The first era of globalization was made possible by steamship lines, free trade, foreign investment, low trade barriers and mass migration of labour at a time when passports were not required for international travel. Like the second era of globalization of the last decades of the twentieth century, this early version of globalization was made possible by technological breakthroughs such as telegraphic communication, which functioned as the Internet of its era. This was the global civilization that offered the Olympic movement the political and economic circumstances in which it could fulfill its unique international mission.