Rome 1960: Making Sporting History: The Modern Olympic Movement Was Inspired by the Classical World. but, Says Richard Bosworth, When the Italian Capital Hosted the Games 50 Years Ago, the Organisers Had to Offer an Image of the City That Also Took Account of Its Christian, Renaissance and Fascist Pasts

By Bosworth, Richard | History Today, August 2010 | Go to article overview

Rome 1960: Making Sporting History: The Modern Olympic Movement Was Inspired by the Classical World. but, Says Richard Bosworth, When the Italian Capital Hosted the Games 50 Years Ago, the Organisers Had to Offer an Image of the City That Also Took Account of Its Christian, Renaissance and Fascist Pasts


Bosworth, Richard, History Today


These days, contests between nations are more likely to occur in the sports arena than on the battlefield, with successive Olympic Games offering the greatest opportunity for what has been called national 'sellebration': the ready marketing of a soft past to an uncritical audience. At Sydney, host to the 2000 games, sporting events were accompanied by a cultural display that emphasised unity between indigenous and immigrant, 'bush' and city, male and female, with 200 aboriginal women from the far outback singing into presence 'the mighty spirit of god to protect the games' (plainly a deity who, despite or because of its antiquity, was also national and was rooted in the soil). At the opening ceremony of the Athens games of 2004, a Centaur, composite beast of classical mythology and teacher of Achilles, greatest of heroes, offered cultural instruction. At Beijing in 2008 the equivalent of around 70 million [pounds sterling] was spent on a lavish inauguration, where for four hours the glories of Chinese culture across the millennia were celebrated. London in 2012 will need to be more parsimonious given the financial crisis, yet history is still bound to be invoked to justify a British games.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

This grand global sporting contest--204 nations competed at Beijing, with the Marshall Islands, Montenegro (but not Kosovo) and Tuvalu doing so for the first time--was, from its beginning, burnished with history. The modern games revived and restored the ancient. Our Olympics far surpass in scale those of classical Greece. Yet, just like the nation, each Olympic Games needs a past to make it legitimate.

The founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937), rarely forgot history when pressing his cause. He himself was a great collector of history books, especially studies of the classical era. His scrutiny of the past and, in particular, his reading of Seneca told him that the fall of the Roman Empire had been linked to 'athletic decline'. According to de Coubertin, in the first century AD 'athletics perished lamentably in the bestial drunkenness of the Roman circus'. As a result, the rising Christian church 'attacked physical culture' far more radically than it did the intellectual products of 'pagan genius: 'We need not become indignant,' he explained:

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In the eyes of History, its action is justified; the world of that time had need of asceticism; luxury and plutocracy were threatening it with death. In our day, on the other hand, we were bearing the over-heavy burden of that overlong period of ascetic philosophy, and it was necessary to return towards physical education.

Given de Coubertin's bond with the classics, it was predictable that the first modern Olympics, in 1896, would be held in Athens despite the undeveloped character of the Greek polity and economy. Where Athens ventured, Rome, it was expected, would follow. The tradition began of tabulating the games with Roman numerals--hence XVII for 1960 and XXX for London in 2012--and Rome was chosen as host for 1908. Paris had been a comfortable enough choice for 1900, but de Coubertin was unhappy with the move of the third Olympiad to St Louis in 1904. As he put it: 'I wanted Rome because there alone, after its excursion to utilitarian America, would Olympism be able to don the sumptuous toga, woven with skill and much thought, in which I had wanted to clothe it from the beginning.' Both King Victor Emmanuel III (r. 1900-46) and Pope Pins X (1835-1914) were won over to de Coubertin's project.

It was not to be. Giovanni Giolitti, the Italian prime minister, epitome of a bourgeois and a figure difficult to imagine partaking of any form of rapid personal locomotion, was lukewarm. Others of Italy's numerous and beautiful 'historic' cities disliked the idea of an event concentrated in Rome. Neither the financial nor the sporting infrastructure was available. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Rome 1960: Making Sporting History: The Modern Olympic Movement Was Inspired by the Classical World. but, Says Richard Bosworth, When the Italian Capital Hosted the Games 50 Years Ago, the Organisers Had to Offer an Image of the City That Also Took Account of Its Christian, Renaissance and Fascist Pasts
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.