“The success of the Olympic Games is largely due to their politicization” | EUROtoday

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ua French tennis participant (Suzanne Lenglen), a Canadian excessive jumper (Ewa Dawes), Japanese volleyball gamers (in Tokyo, in 1964), an Ethiopian marathon runner (Abebe Bikila), African-American college students (John Carlos and Tommie Smith ), a Finnish runner (Paavo Nurmi), Soviet basketball gamers (in Munich, in 1972), a Cuban boxer (Teofilo Stevenson), a quadriplegic archer (Neroli Fairhall), a Russian gymnast (Elena Chouchounova) and a conservative aristocrat (Baron Pierre de Coubertin)… So many trajectories of athletes from the 5 continents who contributed, every of their self-discipline, by their strokes of brilliance, to forging the legend of the Olympic Games by the International Olympic Committee (IOC ) for the reason that finish of the nineteenth centurye century.

Everyone helped flip a comparatively marginal and extremely elitist competitors into a world occasion which, each 4 years, permits nations to measure themselves in opposition to one another. The twelve tales instructed in Legends of the century. A historical past of the Games in twelve medals (ed. Flammarion) invite us to know how and why sport grew to become a world language, between Americanization, decolonization and the Cold War.

Point : How did you choose the twelve Olympic legends on your e book?

Fabien Archambault: To start with, there have been some must-haves. Like the legendary athlete Abebe Bikila, winner of the marathon in Rome in 1960, or Tommie Smith and John Carlos in 1968 in Mexico, who correspond to essential moments within the historical past of the Olympic Games and who’re identified to most people. It was additionally vital that the legends be unfold over time, that they weren’t all the time athletes from athletics – the queen self-discipline of the Olympic Games – to point out how the Olympic motion succeeded in changing into the keystone of the worldwide sporting system. . The third side was to point out the place of girls within the Olympic motion and to respect parity in addition to adequate geographical range.

You use the time period “legend”. Reading your choice, we perceive that it doesn’t simply come all the way down to efficiency at a given time or the variety of medals gained. How do you outline your captions?

The thought of ​​the e book is to point out how the Olympic legend is created. Initially there are each States – and due to this fact people – who spend money on the Olympic Games. And the extra funding there may be, the extra the symbolic significance of the Olympic Games is bolstered and embodied by those that take part on this Olympic motion. These legends, earlier than they develop into world and even worldwide, are first stars of their nation. This implies that there are a number of attainable narratives concerning the Olympics, that’s to say that the totally different nations draw from them what’s vital to them.

READ ALSO Patrick Montel – Tokyo Games: the ten,000 meters, my loveThe 1964 Japanese ladies's volleyball crew is an excellent instance of this Olympic reminiscence which isn’t the identical relying on the nation. In Japan, they’re immensely well-known however virtually unknown in the remainder of the world. It's a bit the identical instance of Paavo Nurmi within the Nineteen Twenties. He grew to become one of many greatest stars of the Olympics in athletics on the time, but it surely was above all Finland which took over the Olympics and its performances to construct its nation and its nationwide identification.

According to your definition of legends, how do you classify Michael Phelps and Larissa Latynina, respectively essentially the most profitable man and girl of the Olympics?

You are proper, I might have been interested by these two champions. But take the case of Phelps: he’s virtually confined to a strictly sporting function. Latynina is vital for Soviet society in its post-Stalinist part – she embodies a sort of socialism with a human face. Both of those examples are struggling and failing to rise above their standing to develop into really world icons of world sport. Unlike Mohamed Ali for instance, within the second half of the twentieth centurye century… I might have added it however I selected to not choose two athletes from the identical Olympiad [JO de 1960 à Rome en l’occurrence, NDLR]. I selected Bikila.

We study from studying your e book that till 1948, there weren’t solely sporting occasions on the Olympics but additionally inventive occasions!

Yes ! I knew that however I had by no means appeared into the query. These inventive challenges – structure, literature, music, portray and sculpture – had been a part of Baron de Coubertin's undertaking from the beginning. The thought is then to say: “if we only organize sporting events, it will only be world championships”. The Olympic framework due to this fact needed to supply one thing that was totally different. Do not dissociate the cultural dimension from the sporting dimension.

READ ALSO Paris 2024 Olympic Games: how are the Olympic sports activities chosen? Unfortunately for Coubertin, this undertaking turned out to be very conservative from an aesthetic and inventive perspective. The man of the nineteenth centurye century tries to perpetuate the way in which the artwork market of the time operated. This can be why nobody remembers these ordeals as we speak. Take the portray: it completely needed to be figurative portray, which robotically excluded all of the avant-gardes of the early twentieth century.e century. There is due to this fact no enduring work that was produced inside the Olympic framework. Picasso by no means competed in an Olympic portray occasion, for instance.

What was your favourite version of the Olympic Games?

I discover that the 1960, 1968 and 1972 Olympics are very fascinating from a historic perspective. Rome in 1960 marked the emergence of the Third World on the worldwide sporting scene. In 1968, we noticed sport collaborating within the world youth protest motion which crossed all nations, no matter the kind of regime. From a sporting perspective, it’s a rare Olympiad with Bob Beamon within the lengthy soar, or Duck Fosbury within the excessive soar… We discover the identical components in 1972, with the emergence of Cuba, the Cold War which beat in full swing, the assault in opposition to the Israeli delegation…

Was the primary political act we witnessed in the course of the Olympics the raised fist by Tommie Smith and John Carlos in 1968 in Mexico?

There have been others earlier than, however which don’t but have the resonance. The coverage is already there. The first actual Olympic Games, in quotes, befell in 1912 in Stockholm. Before, there have been worldwide exhibitions or commerce festivals… But from 1912, rising nations started to make use of sport to exist. We noticed this with the instance of Finland (included within the Tsarist Empire), Czech Bohemia (included within the Empire of Austria-Hungary). This is the recipe for achievement: the Olympics had been capable of perpetuate themselves as a result of many societies projected onto the Games points that had been exterior to sport however which expressed political processes of emancipation.

READ ALSO Should we debunk Pierre de Coubertin? Before Tommie Smith and John Carlos, there may be for instance the winner, Son Kee-Chung, and the bronze medalist, Nam Sung-yong, of the 1936 Olympic marathon in Berlin. These are two Koreans – Korea was then occupied by Japan – whose names had been Japaneseized. On the rostrum, they decrease their heads in order not to take a look at the Japanese flag being raised at that second. It is a really discreet gesture however which, in Asia, is taken into account the start of the politicization of the Olympics. For us, who’re a part of Americanized Western society, we have a tendency to recollect 1968. For Africans, it was the victory of Bikila in 1960 which did so much for Pan-Africanism, for instance.

Conversely, which Olympics did you just like the least?

Maybe that of Melbourne in 1956… It's an intermediate Olympiad the place not a lot occurs. It is the tip of a cycle and the brand new cycle is sluggish to look. This is the tip of what was put in place between the 2 wars the place it was primarily Western nations that competed with one another. The USSR has simply arrived within the Olympic live performance and if there may be already a dimension of the sporting Cold War, it isn’t but at its peak and the Third World shouldn’t be but current. In the tip, we don't bear in mind a lot.

In gentle of the assorted Olympics talked about, what do you consider the one risk for Russian and Belarusian athletes to take part within the Paris 2024 Olympic Games beneath a impartial banner?

This should be analyzed as a fragility of the Olympic Games which might have withered and disappeared between the wars. They had been produced by an aristocratic elite whose authentic social and cultural undertaking was reasonably opposite to what societies around the globe had been demanding, particularly extra democratization, from a political perspective, in addition to democratization and sports activities broadcasting.

However, the IOC has understood that the success of the Olympic Games is because of their politicization. At the identical time, extreme politicization dangers turning in opposition to its Games – for instance the cross-boycott of the 1980 and 1984 Olympic Games. The IOC must develop into common to live on. His obsession, his dread, is that political points stop the holding of an Olympics.

What is fascinating is how the IOC justified the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes in 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine. He didn’t do it for political causes formally as a result of that will have set a precedent – ​​the Arab nations would now not have gone there, Israel, and many others. This determination was made for a non-political pretext: as a result of Russia and Belarus allegedly violated the Olympic truce – the Winter Olympics had been going to happen at the moment.

The IOC was afraid {that a} chain response from Western nations would happen if it stored the Russian and Belarusian athletes. It is a political determination dressed up in a non-political method.

Legends of the century. A historical past of the Games in twelve medals (ed. Flammarion).