The Olympic Games originated in ancient Greece. The first games were held in 776 BC at the site at Olympia, which was originally a sanctuary to Zeus, kingof the Greek Gods, and named after Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greeceand the home of the Greek Gods.
It can be argued that the ancient Olympic Games were nationalistic as they were only open to freeborn Greek men from the various City States.
The fierce nationalistic ethos of the ancient Games can be seen in the controversiessurrounding the inclusion of Alexander the Great’s ancestors into Olympic Games meetings in the sixth Century BC. Even though Alexander I, King of Macedon had ancestry from the Greek Argive dynasty it took some time and negotiation before he was finally allowed to compete in the Olympic Games of 504BC as the
Greek state attempted to restrict entry to just purely Greek born males.
The very concept of Internationalism that transcends the modern Olympic movement could be said to have begun with the founder of the modern Olympic movement Baron Pierre de Coubertin. de Coubertin, an academic, was extremely interested in the role of sport in education and was inspired by the work of Thomas Arnold at Rugby School in the UK. Arnold’s work at Rugby encouraged the spread of sports field across England and de Coubertin recognised many advantages in this movement, including the expansion of British power throughout the nineteenth Century and the increased physical prowess of the British armed forces.
As France had recently suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Prussians in 1871 de Coubertin immediately saw the benefit of encouraging greater physical prowess across the French nation and particularly throughout the French Army. As an academic and a historian de Coubertin romanticised ancient Greece. He sought to revive the idea of the ancient Athenian gymnasium, a training establishment that encouraged both physical and intellectual development. de Coubertin’s idealised vision of ancient Greece led to him developing a passion for reviving the Olympic Games and he began to actively plan for the establishment of a modern Olympic movement from 1889, beginning by organising international meetings of athletes and sports enthusiasts.
At the next session of the Union of French Societies of Athletic Sports, which was held in 1893, the Commission’s proposal was accepted, and it was decided to convene the next International Sports Congress the following year, where a decision on the renewal of the Olympic Games would be made .It can be said that in 1894, Baron Pierre de Coubertin successfully justified the importance of renewing
the Olympic Games for the whole world.
Renewal of the Olympic Games in 1894 at the founding congress of the IOC may be considered the starting point for the formation of the Olympic Movement as it is today. From its creation, the Olympic Movement has had to follow and respond to numerous global challenges and changes of the 20th and 21st centuries, to adapt and change with them, so that the Olympic Games could be more successful in all their aspects .
De Coubertin, aided by wealthy Greek supporters then managed to persuade the Greek Government to fund the staging of the first modern Olympic Games, which were finally staged in 1896.
The Growth of Internationalism
Once the modern Olympics were established the move towards a moreinternationalist ethos rapidly gained momentum. This can be easily confirmed if we examine the number of countries competing over the period 1896 up to the London games of 2012. At the 1896 Games most records state that competitors from 14 individual nations competed. It should be noted that the 1908 Games were the first
Games where entries were only allowed by nations, rather than from individual competitors. By the time of the Antwerp Games of 1920 the list of competing nations had risen to 29, and by the time Hitler paraded the might of Nazism at the 1936 Games the list of competing nations reached 49, which was a new record. There were many reasons for the growth of internationalism. Countries were quick to grasp the benefits of hosting the Games because of the benefits to investment in new facilities and the attraction of a great number of foreign visitors which would result in a boost to the host nation’s tourist industry.
One of the major influences on the spread of the Olympic movement was the spread of Olympism, an idea which is often credited to de Coubertin at the start of the Olympic Revival movement. One of the primary ideals of Olympism is the principle of non-discrimination to allow competitors to enjoy sports in a spirit of international cooperation without discrimination due to race, colour, sex or religion. At no time was this more important than after the carnage of the Second World War. When Britain decided to stage the 1948 Games at a time when much of Europe, including the UK, were in ruins the spirit of Olympism was a strong unifying factor in bringing peoples, races and religions together. Emil Zatopek, a Czech long-distance runner at the 1948 Games summed up the spirit of the movement. “After all those dark days, the bombing, the killing, the starvation, the revival of the Olympics was as if the sun had come out” he told a British competitor. “Suddenly there were no frontiers, no more barriers, just the people meeting” . Another important element in the spread of Internationalism due to the effects of the ethos of Olympism was the increasing contact it engendered between teams from both the capitalist and communist worlds, especially during the period of the Cold War.
For example at the 1952 Games held in Helsinki West Germany participated for the first time as did the USSR, some forty years since the last participation of the Russian Empire.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) supports the development of sports. It cooperates with other sporting organisations in order to help sports have a positive influence on humanity. The IOC arranges a large number of committee meetings and ventures, to make sure they keep to the Olympics principles which are in accordance with the Olympic Charter. Under the authority and leadership of the IOC, the Olympic Movement incorporates organisations, athletes and other persons that agree to act in accordance with the Olympic Charter. “The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a more peaceful and better world by educating young people through sports, and in accordance with the Olympic values” . This shows how the IOC’s aims are beneficial to society and supports Coubertin’s ideas of Olympism.
Many factors have influenced the development of the Olympic Movement to have gotten to where it is today.
From its establishment in 1894 until 1915, the headquarters of the IOC had been in Paris. Switzerland had always appeared neutral in political terms, therefore after the First World War, relocating the headquarters of the IOC from Paris to a country that was known for its neutrality made sense.
If the headquarters of the IOC had remained in Paris it is likely the Olympic Movement would certainly not be the same as it is today. Pierre de Coubertin himself initiated the relocation of the IOC to Lausanne because he thought that the Olympic Movement would benefit from this and develop at a better rate. At the beginning, the Olympic Movement had a very rigid stance on the participation of athletes, and the inclusion of new members into the IOC. There were only 14 Member States present at the 1894 Congress and this had doubled by the time of the Stockholm Games of 1912. By the 1968 Olympics in Mexico there were more than 100 countries involved and then over double that again in the Athens 2004 Olympics with over 200 countries taking part in the Games, thus showing the extent to which, it truly has become an internationalist spectacle encompassing all nations.