Akampurira Justus (Uganda) on Interpreting Olympic Values and Recommendations for Olympism in the Twenty-First Century

September 4, 2012

Olympism is a set of principles, ideas, visions, and challenges. Coubertin described it, in not completely systematic terms, as a philosophy of life with the principles of a cult of effort, eurhythmics, and a love of exercise, but also as a state of mind. Besides the original ideas of Pierre de Coubertin, Olympism is enriched by other ideas and objectives in the Olympic Charter. These comprise reflection on the development of the Olympic Movement, sport, and culture, as well as mutual relationships.
Authors such as Lolland have cited Olympic values as a “secular and vitalistic” expression of western humanism. However, evidence that they are—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. A review of the Olympic idea of Coubertin—but also of its network of interpreters—can show Olympism as a reconciliation between romantic values (the notions of honor, duty, self-surpassing, fair play, moral excellence, and a feeling of belonging) and values from illuminism (individualism, universalism, belief in the transforming power of education, and the value of competition).

As the saying goes, sport and education is right for everyone, and in order to achieve this goal and also to ensure the continuity of the Olympic Movement amidst many challenges like doping and excessive commercialization, the following recommendations need to be taken into effective consideration:

- The International Olympic Committee and National Olympic Committees should systematically support research in universities focused on Olympism, the Olympic movement, and Olympic Games.

- The principle values and relationships of Olympism, sport, and culture should be an integral part of professional training for future teachers, coaches, managers, etc.

- Revisit the historic foundation of sport and Olympism to better understand the most contemporary developments.

- Identify the system of values, beliefs, and representation of athletes or their surroundings and understand, through the daily life of clubs, their speeches and behaviors and the nature of expressions of the Olympics.

- Question the forms of media treatment of the sport and Olympic values in order to identify journalists’ and sports events actors’ social responsibility in their distribution.

To sum up, it is impossible to say what the Olympic values will be in the twenty-first century. Looking ahead, their pertinence and social relevance, and by extension the Olympic Games as we know them, will be exactly as we can define them to ourselves: as a culture or society displaying our collective myths and history. Like other cultural phenomena, they may fall into disuse and disappear; it is impossible to predict their future. However, we can be sure that, before anything else, they still are a meta-narrative and, therefore, a form of reading the changes of the unclear world where we live.
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