On this week’s Mere Fidelity, Matt, Derek, and I are joined by Michael Austin for a topical discussion of the Olympics and the place that sports have in our culture. We take the following quotation as a starting point for our conversation:
In their beliefs, Coubertin and his followers were liberals in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson and John Stuart Mill. Deeply suspicious of conventional theistic religions, they promoted Olympism as a substitute for traditional faith. “For me,” Coubertin wrote in his Mémoires Olympiques, “sport is a religion with church, dogma, ritual.” In a radio address delivered in Berlin on August 4, 1935, he repeated his frequently expressed desire that the games be inspired by “religious sentiment transformed and enlarged by the internationalism and democracy that distinguish the modern age.” Nearly thirty years later, Coubertin’s most dedicated disciple, Avery Brundage, proclaimed to his colleagues on the International Olympic Committee that Olympism is a twentieth-century religion, “a religion with universal appeal which incorporates all the basic values of other religions, a modern, exciting, virile, dynamic religion” (pp. 2-3).