There are many myths around the Olympic Games – both ancient and relatively young. So, there is an opinion that there is nothing left of sports in them at all – one continuous commerce. Doping scandals have set the teeth on edge – they are often presented as a way to prevent “unwanted” athletes from competing. There are also questions about the Olympic traditions: if you dig, the “antiquity” of many of them will be in great doubt, and at least one owes its existence to the Minister of Propaganda of the Third Reich, Joseph Goebbels. However, there are researchers who went even further in their assumptions: they believe that all the traditions around the games, like the ancient Olympics themselves, are just a beautiful myth generated by the founder of the Olympic movement Pierre de Coubertin
It is believed that the first documented Olympic Games took place in 776 BC. e., however, the Greeks are sure that such existed much earlier. They base their convictions on Homer’s Iliad and the works of the less well-known philosopher Pausanias, who believed that the games were already held in the 9th century BC. e. There is also material evidence: bronze tripods found at Olympia. They date back to the 9th century BC. e. and are kept at the German Archaeological Institute in Athens. A number of researchers suggest that the aforementioned devices could be prizes that were given to the winners of the competitions. Whether this is true or not – now, probably, you will not find out.
Of course, the games had a powerful religious component. It was believed that Zeus himself patronized them. According to one version, Hercules established them, according to another, he only revived them. At the closing of the games on the altar of Zeus, one hundred bulls were sacrificed – this large-scale sacrifice was called a hecatomb. Now this word denotes the mass extermination of people or animals – cruel and senseless.
In 394 AD, the Roman emperor Theodosius I banned the Olympic Games. The goal is the fight against pagan remnants. It is believed that by that time 293 Olympiads had taken place.
Was it or not?
It is believed that the idea of reviving the Olympics belongs to the French public figure Pierre de Coubertin. Inspired by the archaeological discoveries at Olympia, he developed a project to revive the Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee was created, and Coubertin became its president. And in 1894, the first “new” games were held in Athens.
Pierre de Coubertin became not only the organizer, but also the ideologist of the Olympics. Their principles and rules seemed to be based on those very ancient principles, of course, adapted to the realities of the late 19th century. However, the president of the Club of History and Sports Statistics, Alexander Lyubimov, believes that the ancient Olympic Games, at least in the form in which they are presented to us, are nothing more than a myth.
I do not agree at all with the opinion that there were some kind of games somewhere in Ancient Greece. I am not the first person who dealt with this issue, people before me proved that these games did not exist. It just wasn’t. I would say, as the president of the Club of Sports History and Statistics: 99 percent that this was not the case. One percent – perhaps yes. But you understand that the variance is minimal.
All the mythology around the Olympic Games and other “beauties”, according to Alexander Lyubimov, could have appeared already in the days of Coubertin.
Very well! I think that maybe thanks to the Olympics there was one less war,
– the expert considers.
The craftiness of the sources
There are indeed a lot of discrepancies with traditions that are considered to be Olympic and thoroughly ancient. For example, the Olympic torch relay. It turns out that there is no documentary evidence (let’s not consider myths as such!) That this is precisely the ancient tradition. It was first realized at the 1936 Olympics, held in Germany. And there is strong evidence that the idea of this relay belongs to the Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels – as you know, a great fan of torchlight processions. True, now they prefer to shyly keep quiet about this, “appointing” Professor Karl Dim, a member of the German Olympic Committee, as the author of the idea. However, this is the case when horseradish radish is not sweeter: after all, the “ancient tradition” in fact turned out to be just a myth.
Another myth, the authorship of which is attributed to Coubertin, is that only amateur athletes participated in the ancient Olympics. The ancient athletes, according to sources, were the real pros, and supported their cities, which they represented. Yes, the reward for the victory was modest – just a wreath of wild olive – but the “scholarships” and additional bonuses paid to the winners by the cities, more than offset all the moral and material costs.
There are also many questions about the fact that, allegedly, in ancient times, during the games, wars stopped. According to the American historian Harvey Abrams, the “Olympic truces” did not stop the wars, but only introduced a rule according to which the citizens of the warring city-states who arrived at the games were not supposed to fight each other. And these, as they say in Odessa, are two big differences.
Alexander Lyubimov is also suspicious of the ceasefire myths:
Where the troops were moving and where, what battles were – this can still be written objectively about Alexander the Great. And what about smaller battles and less significant characters? How many people were lost in each battle? When they object and point to some sources, I say: “Let’s figure out how many died in the First World War, how many during collectivization and how many in the Great Patriotic War.”
According to the expert, even about these events, relatively close to us, there is no complete, clear and consistent information. But then how can you say with certainty what happened thousands of years ago?
It turns out that Coubertin is not the author of the idea of reviving the Olympic Games – he only picked it up from less successful enthusiasts and implemented it. So, Harvey Abrams writes that a certain Robert Dover in 1612 organized a competition in England, which he called the Olympic Games, and they were held until 1852. Dr. William Penny Brooks also hosted a competition of the same name. In 1890 he invited Coubertin to England, where the latter, presumably, got a lot of ideas. Finally, in Greece, the National Olympic Games have been held since 1859 .
However, all this does not detract from Coubertin’s merits: he managed to collect and unite various private initiatives. It is thanks to him that we have the Olympic Games. Another question is how close they are now to the ideals proclaimed by Coubertin.
The most “rainbow” Olympics
Against the background of doping scandals that have been shaking the sports world for many years now, against the background of strange decisions regarding Russia, the question arises: is there anything left of sports in the Olympic movement? Or has it finally degenerated into a competition between pharmaceutical giants and a means of settling political scores?
There is the same amount of sports – no less. It’s just that, unfortunately, currently the International Olympic Committee is far from the strongest leaders,
– says Alexander Lyubimov.
The question, as usual, is who “calls the tune”. For example, Out Sports reports that a record 142 LGBT athletes will take part in the current Olympics. 34 of them are from the USA, 16 from Canada, 15 from the UK. The “unusual” athletes will also be represented by the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil. And the participation of the transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is also seen as an unquestionably positive moment.
It’s interesting: will the gain from such individuals be declared a dense homophobia?
Well, and one more nuance: at the initiative of the head of the IOC, Thomas Bach, for the first time in the “new” history of the Olympics, the motto of the competition was changed. Earlier it sounded “Faster, higher, stronger!” Now – “Faster, higher, stronger – together!” According to IOC spokesman Mark Adams, the new word emphasizes the contribution of people who work with the athlete: coaches, doctors, family members.
Everyone says that we are together, everyone speaks, but few know in which …
– commented on the innovation in social networks with the words of Viktor Tsoi.
In addition to the hidden meanings of “uniting” with all sorts of minorities, in the new motto we saw an obvious contradiction, if not even stupidity:
Previously, it was understood that each athlete strives to become faster, taller and stronger than everyone else. This is the essence of sport. Now what? Who should an athlete get ahead of everyone else? Those who are not together?
– writes journalist Mikhail Chesalin.
Olympians or Paralympians?
However, this is one of the new “miracles”, but there are enough old ones as well. Doping scandals have set the teeth on edge, when one is not allowed, but the other is allowed. If you really want to. I remember the story of 2016, when athletes Venus Williams and Simone Biles were quite officially allowed to use psychostimulants – allegedly due to some serious illness. You can also recall the almost comical situation with the Norwegian biathletes who used the drug for asthma, which included salbutamol, which is actually a prohibited substance. “Norwegian asthmatics” have since become a meme. And it is not at all funny in this situation that WADA allows miracles of loyalty to anyone, but not Russian athletes.
Of course, in such situations, the interests of certain political forces and pharmaceutical companies are mixed. Take, for example, the story with the same meldonium:
I am deeply convinced that the whole story with meldonium appeared for only one reason. If we analyze everything that happened in our market and in the markets of European countries, where meldonium, by the way, was also used in the sports industry and simply in sports, why such a scandal? Who benefits from this? Of course, it cannot be ruled out that this story was directed against us. But economically, the producers of meldonium won,
– says Alexander Lyubimov.
Numerous stories with forbidden, but allowed in some cases (allegedly due to illness) drugs gave rise to another bitter joke: they say, since some Olympians are so seriously ill, they should have switched to Paralympic sports. Well, in general, it is not clear whose achievements we are now seeing at international competitions: the strength of the human spirit and body, or still “big pharma”.
And finally: according to the VTsIOM poll, 97 percent of the respondents do not know the name of a single athlete who will represent Russia in Tokyo. You see, not a single one! And 38 percent of the study participants said they did not plan to follow the progress of the Olympics. Could it be possible to imagine this even 10 years ago, when even citizens far from sports were fiercely rooting for “ours” in front of television screens? The question arises: is such an Olympics necessary at all? And if so, to whom?
The directors of the Olympics opening ceremony were fired for joking about the Holocaust. In fact, he was joking, of course, not now. Our days are so harsh that no humoresque in “decent society” can be poisoned. It was a 1994 interview. Someone meticulous was not too lazy to find and read it. And there the main composer of the opening ceremony sneered at the disabled. Olympic Games 2021 began with a new slogan and a new resignation. What else will have time to happen? We look carefully.
Alexey Ulyanov is a Publicist and political consultant
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