AbovePierre deCoubertin, whodrew inspirationfor his Olympicvalues from theAncient OlympicGames 30OLYMPIC REVIEWwww.olympic.orgOLYMPIC VALUESTHE MAN BEHIND THE VALUESThat Pierre de Coubertin sought to infuse the OlympicMovement with long-lasting values should come as nosurprise. He regarded himself, first and foremost, asan educational reformer. In that capacity, he had seen,first hand, how introducing students to values couldchange lives. In addition to his interest in educational reform, Coubertin is known for hispublished works in history, politics and sociology. Sportwas central to his thoughts in this regard. He believedsport should play an important role in every child'slearning and, in fact, enjoy the same degree ofeducational influence as science, literature and art.Coubertin's argument rested on the notion that sportcan stimulate thinking and improve one's ability toconcentrate. As he claimed in 1887, "[Sport] makesfor twice as quick learning and twice as goodunderstanding". Also important to Coubertin's philosophy ofeducation was the role played by sport in setting afoundation for ethics. As he saw it, the personal codeof conduct arising from one's sporting pursuitssupported the development of morals and theachievement of broader educational goals. Self-knowledge, self-control, generosity, observance ofrules, respect for others and an appreciation for effortwere equally valuable in guiding one's actions on thefields, in the classroom and throughout life. BACK TO THE FUTURE In shaping his vision for education, Coubertin drewinspiration from a philosophy that had flourished3,000 years earlier. In ancient Greece, sport was anintegral part of general education and seen as criticalto establishing an individual's proper physical andmental balance. Sport stood on an equal footing withart, philosophy and music. Together, these disciplinesformed the building blocks for the harmoniouseducation of the body, character and mind. The ancient Olympic Games, which can be tracedback to 776 BC, exalted this holistic system ofeducation. Closely linked to religious festivals anddedicated to the gods of Olympus, the Olympic Gamesprovided an opportunity for free men of Greek origin tocompete every four years in foot races, discus andjavelin throwing, wrestling, boxing, long jumping,equestrian events and pentathlon contests. The winner was awarded a crown of olive leaves, and was given the right to have poetic verses written of his accomplishments and a statue of himself erected in his hometown. The sanctity of the ancient Olympic Games wasreflected in the tradition of the "Olympic Truce", or"Ekecheiria". For a certain period surrounding theseOlympic Games, all hostilities amongst the ancientGreek cities ceased. The plains of Olympia became aplace where no one carried arms. This meant theathletes, their families, artists and some 40,000spectators were able to travel in complete safety toparticipate in or attend the event. The tradition of theOlympic Truce persisted for 1,200 years, until EmperorTheodosius I decreed that the Games represented a"pagan cult" and should, therefore, be banned. Coubertin was convinced that the ancient Greeks provided a model on which to base a modernOlympic Movement and modern Olympic Games. Like the ancient Greeks, he considered sport to be not only a critical component of a well-roundededucation, but also a vehicle for societal harmony,understanding and peace. In fact, there was very little he felt sport could not accomplish. He onceclaimed, "Sport is Man's best way to achieveperfection in every respect". TRANSLATINGANCIENTIDEALS INAMODERNCONTEXTWhen Coubertin officially launched the OlympicMovement and the International Olympic Committee atthe Paris International Congress, his belief in the valueof sport had not subsided. But his articulation of hisposition had become more mainstream. "Perfection"as the ultimate goal of sport was replaced by "effort".As Coubertin explained in what has become the creedof the Olympic Games, "The important thing in life isnot the triumph, but the fight; the essential thing is notto have won, but to have fought well". When asked why he decided to revive the OlympicGames and establish the Olympic Movement,Coubertin responded, "To ennoble and strengthensports, to ensure their independence and duration,and thus to enable them better to fulfil the educationalrole incumbent upon them in the modern world". Overtime Coubertin's ideas concerning the role of sports ineducation would become more detailed and thosedetails would later influence the addition of fourgeneral aims in the Olympic Charter: CORE VALUESThe three core values of the OlympicMovement, which inspire us on individual andorganisational levels, are:?Excellence:This value stands for giving one's best, on the field of play or in the professional arena. It is not only about winning, but also about participating, makingprogress against personal goals, striving to be and to do our best in our daily lives and benefiting from the healthy combination of a strong body, mind and will. ?Friendship:This value encourages us to consider sport as a tool for mutual understanding among individuals and peoplefrom all over the world. The Olympic Games inspire humanity to overcome political, economic, gender, racial or religious differences and forge friendships in spite of those differences. ?Respect: This value incorporates respect for oneself, one's body, for others, for the rules and regulations, for sport and the environment. Related to sport, respect standsfor fair play and for the fight against doping and any other unethical behaviour.
THE CHALLENGE OFCOMMUNICATING VALUESAs the Olympic Movement widened its sphere ofinfluence to achieve Coubertin's original vision ofsport as a vehicle for individual and societalimprovement, it strived to remain true to its originalvalues, both in its actions and its words. Values, as intellectual concepts, are difficult todefine. They are thought of as universally www.olympic.orgOLYMPIC REVIEW31OLYMPIC VALUESaccepted or absolute. Yet they may vary inimportance from one stakeholder to another. Theymay mean different things to different peopledepending on the social or cultural context in whichthey reside. And they are interpreted through theunique lens with which each human being viewsthe world. As elusive and somewhat vagueabstractions, they are often easier to describethrough example than through strict and agreed-upon definition.?BelowJesseOwens and LuzLong began afriendship at the1936 BerlinGames that wasto last for therest of their lives"THE IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE IS NOT THE TRIUMPH, BUT THE FIGHT; THEESSENTIAL THING IS NOT TO HAVE WON, BUT TO HAVE FOUGHT WELL"?To promote the development of those physical and moral qualities that are the basis of sport.?To educate young people through sport in a spirit of better understanding between each other and of friendship, thereby helping to build a better and more peaceful world.?To spread the Olympic principles throughout the world, thereby creating international goodwill.?To bring together the athletes of the world for a sports festival every four years: the Olympic Games.In these four goals was born the foundation of thevalues that, collectively, have become known as"Olympism". Olympism is a philosophy and a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educationalvalue of good example and respect for fundamentalethical principles. For the individual, Olympism blendssport, culture and education to promote the proper and well-balanced development of the body, the willand the mind. For society, Olympism places sport at theservice of mankind by encouraging the establishmentof a peaceful society that preserves and nurtureshuman dignity.From the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 totoday, the Olympic Movement has turned to its valuesto help define the role sport plays in the development ofhumans and humankind. It has also continuallyreassessed its Charter and developed programmes toensure the relevance of sport in contemporary society.For example, over the years, it has expanded thescope of the Olympic Games to include summer andwinter competitions, and now welcomes athletes frommore than 200 countries. It has recognised (andfunded) a network of National Olympic Committees,and worked with them, and with International SportsFederations to develop future Olympians and providedirect support for athletes and coaches around theworld. It has launched initiatives that enhance the roleof sport in society, and has recently entered intodiscussions with the United Nations to develop "sportfor peace" projects. It has taken steps to promotehealth and human development, provide humanitarianassistance and advance women's participation insport, the Olympic Games and sports administration. Ithas added environmental sustainability as one of itsprimary concerns, along with sport, education andculture. And it has taken a strong and visible stanceagainst doping in sport. The Olympic values have inspired and influencedeach of these decisions, thereby playing a fundamentalrole in the Olympic Movement's notable success.