The philosophy of Olympism / by Jim Parry

Parry, Jim

Edited by The Olympic Studies Centre - 2024

Olympism is a universal social philosophy that emphasises the role of sport in world development, international understanding, peaceful co-existence, and social and moral education. The philosophical anthropology of Olympism translates into a few simple phrases that capture the essence of what an ideal human being ought to be and to aspire to. It promotes the ideals of individual all round harmonious human development; towards excellence and achievement; through effort in competitive sporting activity; under conditions of mutual respect, fairness, justice and equality; with a view to creating lasting personal human relationships of friendship, international relationships of peace, toleration and understanding, and cultural alliances with the arts. However, since Olympism achieves its ends through the medium of sport, it cannot escape the requirement to provide an account of sport which reveals both its nature and its ethical potential. Jim Parry defines ‘Olympic sports’ as institutionalised rule-governed contests of human physical skill. This conceptual account provides both a definition of Olympic sport and a demarcation criterion; but it also specifies the internal values of sport, such as human development through physical effort, practice and education. And its nature as essentially contested practice entails values of competition and excellence, co-operation, co-facilitation, respect, and all that is required by an obligation to the rules (fair play, equality, justice, peace and non-discrimination). Importantly, this concept of sport is where Olympism comes from. Sometimes it is thought that Olympism gives values to sport. The author thinks it’s the other way round: sport is the source of Olympic values. Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Movement, saw what was already there - in everyday sport itself. That is what he thought the Olympic Games were for - as a means to announce, exhibit and popularise this concept of ethical sport. And this thought is the beginning of Olympic education.

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