Olympic heritage and memory of the Olympic Games / by Christian Wacker

Wacker, Christian

Edited by The Olympic Studies Centre - 2024

Olympic heritage - a coinage of words that unites cultural heritage, the memory of Olympic events and Olympic memories in general - and collective remembrance of the Olympic Games are the focus of this article. The cultural heritage of the Olympics is managed and shaped by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and a wide variety of federations, associations, and organisations around the Olympic Movement. But also by societies interested in the Olympics, i.e. all those who participate in the Olympic Games and their accompanying phenomena. In the same way that nations or religious groups participate as social frames in their specific cultural heritage, those involved in the Olympics also shape, nurture and mould the Olympic Movement. The Olympic Movement is also such a social frame and thus endeavours to preserve its heritage, to describe it, to evaluate it, to perpetuate it, to stipulate it and to remember it. Please note, cultural heritage and thus also Olympic heritage is not a history carved in stone, but an amalgam of stories - told and documented - a collective remembering and above all the festive embellishment of the heritage through rites, i.e., recurring Olympic Games with their rituals. Rites such as holidays and state celebrations for nations or festivities for religious groups are an important part of the cultural heritage. This is no different for Olympic heritage, on the contrary, rites significantly determine the Olympic Movement. In this article, Olympic heritage is presented as a cultural, rather than a political, social or even individual heritage, even though the latter three feed into the cultural. In the case of cultural heritage, the heritage may well be described differently from generation to generation, with interpreters of heritage having access to a wealth of information. This information is collected in archives, in collections of physical and intangible legacies, in monuments, among other institutions. In libraries, the interpretations of this primary information are found, selected and compiled by the editors. For example, an editor analysing the Fosbury flop can only access the primary information available to him or her. He or she does not know all the events and interprets to the best of his or her knowledge and belief. There is no history, only stories that are relevant to our cultural and therefore Olympic heritage. And it should certainly be the task of the social frames to preserve these stories as best as possible in order to be able to perpetuate them for the cultural heritage.

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