2011.09.30 Conclusions from the International Olympic Academy Week 1
Preliminary Conclusions• The ancient Greek Olympics can inform our understanding of the modern Olympics only in a limited sense. o The ancient games evolved at a Olympia as the result of its status as a religious center (evidenced first by the presence of an oracle of Gaia on Mt. Kronos and later by the temple of Hera [and Zeus, perhaps]) and its central location uninfluenced by any major polis.) Though Coubertin imagined a sort of religio athletae, the founding of the modern Olympic Games are only tangentially related to religion. o The number of events and the duration of the ancient games was significantly shorter than the modern games, beginning simply with a footrace and lasting for one day and ultimately evolving to only five days. o Professor Scanlon mentioned some details about the diet of ancient athletes, but the evidence for this is scant. Ms. Roza Kouvelioti supplemented this presentation with her own research on the diet of ancient and modern Olympic athletes and observed that even though ancient athletes were very interested in their diets as a way of improving their performance, the dietary habits of modern athletes has evolved according to changes in nutrition and diet. o The shared language of the Greeks was a significant element in the success of the ancient Olympic Games. Ana Szemberska demonstrated how language functions as a tool of unification in sports through her presentation “Foreign and Olympic Terminology in Italian Football.” o Some of Professor Scanlon’s more controversial arguments concerned the role of women in the ancient Olympic Games and his belief that women’s contests were held the day before the official (men’s) games began. Lindsay Parks Pieper connected the modern gender policies of the Olympic Movement to the segregation of the ancient games in her presentation entitled “Is the athlete right or wrong? Gender regulation in Olympic Sport.” She claimed that the current gender policies, particularly sex testing and the Stockhold Consensus perpetuates the notion of female inferiority and is thus detrimental to women’s sport.• Modern Olympic ideology can inform our understanding of the ancient Olympics in some sense. o Today we have the rings and the flame; in ancient times, we had the images of Hercules competing with Zeus and Pelops and the Centaurs and the Lapiths. The ancient images, in part, demonstrate the competition between Elis and Pisa for hegemony over the actual physical site of the Olympics; modern images can be seen as re-
affirming the narrative of twentieth-century Olympism; yet post- modern imagery strives to collapse the dominant narrative and re- affirm individual identities. This fragmenting is reminiscent of the competing images in ancient Olympia. o In the ancient Olympics, different city-states erected statues to publicize and emphasize their identity. Modern-day nationalism has much different and more nuanced forms, as Doiara dos Santos aptly demonstrated in her presentation entitled “National Identity Narratives in the Vancouver Winter Olympic Fames 2010.” o The manipulation of Olympic and athletic ideology was explored by Teresa Yates in her presentation “Olympic Imagery in Pericles’ Epitaphios Logos.” She discussed the manner in which one finds verbal images in Pericles’ funeral oration which have strong resonance with the visual images associated with the Olympics and explored how Thucydides used this rhetoric to advance his socio-political themes. o Professor Raschke analyzed the evolution of images on the Temple of Zeus and in athletic monuments. Ana Popovcic used similar methodology in her analysis of the images of David in her presentation entitled “The evolution of art history presentation of strength and the human body through the example of David.”• Being in Olympia provides access to a significant element of the ancient Olympic games, but doesn’t provide the complete international picture. o There were games all over the Greco-Roman world, and a significant part of the first week was also spent discussing the various features of the games in Nemea, Isthmia, and Delphi. o The Pan-Athenaic festival was another thing we learned about, and that introduces the whole thing about games for prizes. o Professor Evangelos Albainidis also looked at the games diachronically and observed both change and continuity in the games from their inception to their decline. o Katharina Schorr’s presentation “German Influence on the Activities of the International Olympic Academy” was an illuminating exploration of the rocky path of the foundation of the IOA and the pivotal role of Germany in its success. She also introduced the spiritual fathers of the Olympic education movement, an international community of thinkers including Pierre de Coubertin, Carl Diem, and Ioannis Ketseas. o While Prof. Albinidis explored the existence of the Olympic Games in ancient Turkey, Fatih Dervent discussed the role of the modern Olympics in Turkey in his presentation “A Brief History of Olympics in Turkey,” including information about the contribution of minorities to sports in Turkey, the visits of Coubertin in 1907 and Carl Diem in 1933, Turkish Olympic victors, Istanbul’s bids for hosting the Olympic
Games, and the importance of hosting the Olympic Games as a contribution to national sports, education, and the Olympic movement.o The issues of holding the ancient Olympic Games at Olympia and the logistical realities of their occurances were explored by both Professor Raschke and Professor Albinidis. Similar issues were discussed by the ancient historian Herodotus; in her presentation “The Olympic Games, Globalization, and Herodotus’ Histories,” Kourtney Murray gave a brief overview of the historian’s perspective and complicated the argument that the Olympic ideals were strictly a Hellenic phenomenon.