The 20th century is behind us. If we tried to determine the distinctive phenomena of that historical period, sport would surely take a prominent place. It acquired the same significance that religion had in the Middle Ages: the Olympic Games became the most important festivity of the modern world and the Olympic idea its “humanistic” gospel. Modern Olympic paganism is the form in which capitalism wiped out Christianity (as well as other religions) and became the chief ideological instrument for integrating people into the spiritual orbit of capitalism. The calendar of leading sports manifestations assumed the role of religious calendars and became a spiritual pivot, while the stadium became the most important cult venue of the modern world. Sport is not only an “ideological curtain concealing the real evil” (Adorno), it is the bourgeois means of erasing the cultural traces of mankind and destroying the emancipatory heritage of civil society. The basic aim of modern Olympism is not to transform the world into a cultural community of nations, but to turn it into a “civilized” menagerie. Stadiums have become modern concentration camps in which the hope of a better world is being destroyed and modern hordes of barbarians are being generated. Sport is not only the “opium for a socially structured defect” and thus “one of the chief ways of escaping from reality” (Fromm), but also a way of degenerating man: a sports spectacle is a ritual through which the capitalist “holy spirit” inseminates people turning them into capitalistically transmuted animals.
The myth of modern Olympism falls into the circle of myths by which the ideologues of West-European colonial states try to obtain the “civilizing” legitimacy for their colonization of the world. It ranks with the myths of the “exploratory” character of the voyages of Columbus and the “civilizing” nature of the Catholic “missions”. At the same time, the creation of the Olympic myth creates a mythological conscious and a mythological relation to the fundamental principles of capitalism: bellum omnium contra omnes and the absolutized principle of performance (Leistung) as expressed by the maxim citius, altius, fortius. The Olympic Games are a “festivity of youth” (Coubertin) – and that means flourishing of the vital force of capitalism and a revived faith in its “eternal” values. Hence the significance attached to the “holy rhythm” of the Games (every four years), which by no means must be interrupted. Modern Olympism is one of the most aggressive totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century, which tends to destroy man’s dignified liberating spirit and “reconcile” (Comte) him to the existing world of injustice. It is one of the supporting pillars of the spiritual firmament of the 20th century and thus the chief political tool for achieving one of the main goals of monopolistic capitalism: to do away with democratic institutions and establish direct control over the working class. Coubertin’s precept that direct “control in heads” must first be established in order to establish successful control in institutions, intended by the Nazis to help them create a “new order”, serves as the guiding principle of the advocates of the present “new world order”. The increasing number of increasingly bloody sports manifestations is meant to divert people’s attention from fundamental existential issues and weaken their capacity for judgment: sport has become the “cheapest spiritual food for the masses” (Coubertin).
The critique of Olympism should be seen in the context of capitalism becoming a global totalitarian order governed by the most powerful capitalist concerns. They have set up “supranational” institutions (NATO, IMF…) that serve as “substitutes” for the institutions based on the sovereignty of citizens and nations, and form the fence of a global concentration camp within which the capitalist centers of power endeavour to enclose mankind. The so-called “international sports associations” act as the “Trojan horse” of the ruling political groups and multinational concerns, and with their authoritarian structure and “supranational” regulations were the first to have questioned national and civil sovereignty. They are the most important tool of the “new world order” for destroying national cultures and integrating people into the spiritual orbit of capitalism – at the level of slaves. Olympism is the crown of a “mondialistic” ideology which seeks to remove all normative (customary, moral, legal and religious) boundaries that could get in the way of establishing a global capitalist totalitarianism. Sport imposes rules contrary to the elementary human and civil rights modern legislation is based upon: sex segregation; right to inflict serious bodily injuries and kill; monstrous abuse of children; turning sportsmen into modern slaves; drug abuse and using sportsmen as experimental specimens; antidemocratic character of the “international sports associations”, particularly the IOC as an authoritarian organization which through the national Olympic Committees dictates the rules of conduct… All these “details” indicate that sport is a “pure” embodiment of the Social Darwinist and progressistic spirit of capitalism and thus the basic instrument for producing a global positive one-mindedness: Olympism is the cult of the existing world and the philosophy of positive life.
From this mythological relation to Olympism arose a mythological relation to its founder, Pierre de Coubertin. We can say without exaggeration that the ideologues of the “free world”, largely assisted by their colleagues from “real socialism”, turned Coubertin into a new “Messiah”, whose Olympic gospel reveals the true purpose of man’s existence. “Feeling” that Coubertin belongs to the circle of “the chosen”, his most devoted followers declared him to be the “divine baron” and wrote the legendary biography which affirms his “messianic” character and describes his “messianic” (Olympic) path. Coubertin himself greatly contributed to the creation of his “divine” aureole. In the modern Olympic movement he saw the “Church”; in the members of the IOC he saw the “trustees of the Olympic idea”, peculiar apostles of Olympism, while for himself, the “spiritual father” of the Olympic movement, he envisaged the role of the “high priest” of modern Olympic paganism. The head office of the IOC became the new Vatican. In view of Coubertin’s aspirations to turn Olympism into the dominant (religious, philosophical and scientific) thought of the modern era, which will supply people with a new purpose of life, we are clearly dealing with a peculiar messianic mission. What distinguishes Coubertin is the fact that he appears as “The Restorer” (“Le Rénovateur”) of the ancient Olympic Games – meaning a messenger of the gods of Olympus and thus the organic link between Hellenic and modern civilizations. Basing himself on the view that the Greeks “little devoted themselves to thinking, and even less to books”, Coubertin wished to create a positive man and build a positive society. However, being a scribomaniac (he published over 600 books, essays and speeches), he obviously disregarded the very principle he established as one of the foundations of positive life. Coubertin should not be taken at his word. The analysis of his writings clearly shows that they were not intended to prompt the reader to consider the crucial existential questions, but to make him fanatical and induce him to follow the interests of the parasitic ruling classes. Coubertin’s Olympic writings are a synthesis of political pamphlets and “truths” that seek to assume a biblical character. They do not develop a critical and libertarian, but an apologetic and submissive conscious, and thus correspond to the “practical” philosophy they represent.
The myth of Coubertin is based on the assertion that he devoted his life to the creation of a “better world” governed by “peace” and “cooperation between nations”, and that it was the reason why he “restored” the ancient Olympic Games and inspired them with a “new” spirit. If that is so, the question is: why are the works of Pierre de Coubertin – whose written legacy amounts to over 60,000 pages – unknown to the public? How is it possible that in most countries, in which the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympic Games was pompously celebrated, not a single line from Coubertin’s writings has been published? To make things even more bizarre, the main censors of Coubertin’s work are the official “guardians” of his Olympic idea. The major reason for the Olympic gentlemen to assume such an attitude towards the “divine baron” lies in the fact that in his main works Coubertin appears as a militant representative of the European bourgeoisie, who elaborates the strategy and tactics of dealing with working “masses”, women and “lower races”. Coubertin’s political writings are political instructions to rulers of the world how to efficiently deal, by means of sport and physical drill, with the struggle for liberation of the oppressed and establish a global supremacy. It is one of the main reasons why, even six decades after his death, the gentlemen from the IOC, together with those from the national Olympic Committees, do not consider publishing Coubertin’s collected works, presenting instead to the public excerpts from his writings in the form of “Selected texts” (“Textes choisis”), (1) from which almost everything indicative of the true nature of his Olympic doctrine has been omitted. Since Coubertin openly stated that capitalism was an unjust order – something that the bourgeois ideologues attempt to hide at all costs – it is quite clear why the bourgeois theory systematically “ignores” Coubertin’s work.
As far as the popular thesis about the “apolitical character of sport” is concerned, even those who glorify Olympism and its “founder” think that Coubertin’s real “greatness” lies not in his contribution to the development of sport, but in making sport the “means of establishing bridges of cooperation between nations”. Coubertin’s Olympic engagement became the symbol of a “policy of peace”, and Coubertin himself – a “politician of peace”. It is therefore quite understandable why the last decade of his life, during which Coubertin openly appeared as a promoter of the Nazi regime, was not included in his biography, and why one of the leading interpreters and propagators of Coubertin’s Olympism Yves-Pierre Boulongne, trying to “explain” Coubertin’s blind devotion to the Nazis and admiration of Hitler, proclaimed him a “schizophrenic”. The preservation of the myth of a “peace-loving Coubertin” – who was in reality a fanatic advocate of authoritarianism and colonialism – stands before the ideologues of Olympism as an impossible task. Thus, one of the main concerns of coubertenologists is how to protect the Olympic myth from the “father” of the modern Olympic Games: in order to preserve the “credibility” of the copy, the “followers” must destroy the original.
According to the same criteria by which Coubertin was pronounced the “divine baron” and “one of the greatest humanists of the 20th century”, the Nazis should also be regarded as “humanists” and “peacemakers”. Were the Berlin Olympics not held as a “symbol of peace” and “international cooperation”? Was it not Hitler who at the Berlin Olympics said the “famous” words: “May the Olympic flame never is extinguished!”? Were the Nazis not those who completed the archaeological excavations of ancient Olympia, with Hitler’s generous contribution of 300 000 Reich marks? Was it not Hitler who instructed his architect Albert Speer to design plans for the largest Olympic stadium in the world with a capacity of 400 000 people? Were the Nazis not the first to have organized the carrying of the “Olympic torch” from “holy” Olympia to Berlin, which symbolized the organic closeness of Hellenic civilization and fascist Germany and was to become one of the most significant symbols of the Olympics? Was it not Coubertin who declared that the Nazi Olympics, which according to him were “illuminated with Hitler’s strength and discipline”, should serve as a model for the subsequent Games, and that Hitler was “one of the greatest constructors of the modern era”? Was it not Coubertin, together with the gentlemen from the IOC, who fervently supported the Nazis, and bequeathed to them his written legacy, with an appeal to protect his Olympic idea from distortion and a “mission” to bury his heart in ancient Olympia?
Trying to obtain a “humanistic” legitimacy for Olympism, the bourgeois theorists use the terms denoting universal human values, recognized throughout the world as man’s greatest challenge: “peace”, “international cooperation”, “youth”, “health”, “progress”, “beauty”… The prevalence of humanistic ideals in the Olympic rhetoric suggests that the Olympic Games are not a value-neutral phenomenon and thus beyond good and evil. On the contrary, everything is being done to make Olympism a synonym for humanism. Thus, war between nations on a sports field becomes “peaceful cooperation”, while the most zealous proponents of war and fascist criminals clothing in the Olympic robe become “peacemakers”: Olympic mythology is a mirror in which the greatest evil assumes an angelic air. Instead of striving for peace, Olympism strives to pacify the oppressed and stop their struggle against an order based on the tyranny of the rich “elite”. In the guise of “international cooperation”, people’s discontent, arising from their humiliating social position, is on the sports field systematically directed against other nations, and thus a “national integration” is achieved by which the class division of society is “overcome” and class exploitation concealed. The team sports have the same role: leagues have become an institutionalized war between people deprived of their rights and thus a controlled way of their pacification (depolitisation). At the same time, the introduction of the highest human ideals into the Olympic rhetoric prevents them from being used as the starting point for a critique of the idea and practice of Olympism. Following the “ancient tradition”, the Olympic Games have become a symbol of “peace”, although the proponents of the thesis are quite aware of the fact that the ancient Olympic Games were a “holy truce” and a spiritual preparation for the continuation of war – and that was the most important objective that Coubertin set to “his” Olympic Games. Interestingly, the bourgeois theorists “fail to notice” that Coubertin’s Olympic “humanism” lacks the ideas without which modern society can hardly be imagined: freedom, equality, brotherhood. Coubertin, that “great French patriot”, does not find a place for the French “tricolor” among the Olympic symbols, which should only tell us that modern Olympism is fighting against the emancipatory heritage of modern society.
As for Coubertin’s fanatic endeavour to protect the “pureness” of sport, as an idealized embodiment of the original principles of capitalism, from the disastrous influence of commercialism, it has been clear from the very birth of the Olympic Games that it is a lost battle. From its beginnings, sport has been part of the capitalist system of production and a means of integrating man into the capitalist order. In this line Jean-Marie Brohm commented: “Historically, sport followed the development of industrial capitalism. From the very beginning it has been closely connected to the mechanisms of investment, circulation and reproduction of capital. The institution of sport immediately came into the hands of trading capital and was used as a source of profit. The sale of sports spectacles and betting did not emerge together with sports professionalism, but with the first forms of the institutionalized organization of sports competitions.” (2) As capitalism entered the final stage of its development (“consumer society”), sport has become entirely commercialized: instead of displaying national banners, the Olympic Games are becoming increasingly dominated by the symbols of capitalist companies; instead of religio athletae, reigns the spirit of money; instead of a “Church”, the Olympic Games are becoming a “fairground”; instead of embodying the “sanctity” of the Olympic ideals, sportsmen have become “circus gladiators”; instead of being the honorable “guardians of the Olympic spirit”, the gentlemen from the IOC have become unscrupulous merchants who turned the Olympic Games into a dirty “business” worth billions of dollars.
It is interesting to note that the bourgeois theory has not devoted much space to the discussion of sport and Olympism. (3) The lack of serious analyses of Olympism, which would create possibilities of its demythologization, does not indicate a philosophical and sociological lack of seriousness of the Olympic doctrine, but a paramount importance of sport to the preservation of the existing order. The bourgeois theorists do not try to hide this. For a leading American sociologist of sport, Allen Guttmann, “representational sport is a basic element of social reality” and “it is quite impossible to imagine how we might get along without it”. (4) Proceeding from the ever more sombre reality of the German society, Christian von Krockow, one of the most serious German theorists of sports, poses the following question: “But, what can our civilization, apart from sports games and competitions, really offer to young people – if not drugs or violence?” (5) Little wonder then that the bourgeois theorists treat the critics of Olympism so harshly. Thus, for Paul Veyne, the critique of Olympism is “the matter of extremists, of cynical philosophers, who want to reduce humanism to a natural, even animal, simplicity.” (6)
The bourgeois theorists treat Coubertin’s Olympic philosophy separately from his social (political) theory trying to turn his ideas into suprahistorical “humanistic” principles. They do the same with sport: by removing it from its historical and social context and reducing it to a phenomenon sui generis (“sport has nothing to do with politics”), they prevent sport from being demythologized as a concrete historical (social) phenomenon. Paul Hoch says on this matter: “Thus, if Johan Huizinga or Paul Weiss are writing about the philosophy of sports, they concentrate on the language or general principles of games used by different societies, at different times, under different conditions; and they almost entirely ignore any effects these social conditions could have had. We are left, then, with a “philosophy” of sports that stands outside history and outside society, and hence is almost entirely worthless.” (7) The “development of sport” has put an end to the bourgeois theory and invalidated the arguments by which it founds, justifies and idealizes sport. Capitalism has made both liberal critique of sport (8) and moralistic and “socialist” theory of sport meaningless. (9) All attempts to set up a “second path” (“Der Zweite Weg”) in the development of sport, based on Habermas and Plessner’s critique of sport as the “reflection of the industrial working process”, (10) have failed. Capitalism has also “overcome” the traditional bourgeois anthropology replacing it by a “philosophy of performance” (Leistungsphilosophie). (11) Man is no longer an “animal”, but a “self-destructive being” striving for a higher result (record) at all costs. Man’s “nature” becomes embodiment of the destructive nature of capitalism. It should be noted that philosophical considerations of sport are burdened by misconceptions and bias, so that even such thinkers as Werner Jäger, Ernst Bloch, Jean-Paul Sartre and Max Horkheimer fail to grasp the essence of sport as a concrete historical phenomenon: Jäger reduces sport to the ancient agon; (12) Bloch maintains the illusion that sport is an value-neutral phenomenon and that there exist “good” and “bad” sports depending on whether they are “left” or “right”; (13) Sartre sees in sport a way of leading man to being; (14) Horkheimer, who laments the plight of philosophy, appeals to sport to save the most important values of capitalism – from capitalism itself. (15) It has turned out that fighting for philosophy and supporting sport as the chief means of the capitalist way of dealing with the mind is not only a hopeless, but also a disastrous work.
The fundamental idea used in this paper as the starting point for a critique of capitalism is not Marx’s “alienation” (Entfremdung), but the idea of destruction. Starting from Marx’s most important methodological postulate, that the “anatomy of man is the key to understanding the anatomy of monkey”, it is justified to establish the starting point for a critique of monopolistic capitalism at its final “consumer” stage of development, in which the contradictions of capitalism as a destructive order dramatically threatening the survival of mankind have been fully developed. The fact that capitalism has evolved into a destructive system not only discredits bourgeois thought, but throws a new light on Marx’s critique of capitalism, questioning its foundations and current relevance. Unlike the bourgeois theorists who think that capitalism is the end of history, and thereby sterilize its transforming potentialities, Marx thinks that the true value of capitalism lies in the possibilities, created “under its wing”, of entering a new society, the one in which the highest aspirations of mankind formulated in the basic principles of the French Revolution: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, will be realized. Marx was a follower of Hegel’s dialectic of history: history is the road to man’s freedom, and man’s liberation from nature, i.e., taking control over natural forces, is the basic condition of man’s freedom. Hence such a significance of the development of the productive forces: “It never happens that a social formation fails before all productive forces it can accommodate have been developed, and it is never the case that new, higher relations of production set in before material conditions of their existence have already been born under the wing of the old society itself. That is why society sets to itself only those tasks that it is capable of solving…” (16) And he continues: “The productive forces developed under the wing of bourgeois society create material conditions of resolving …. the antagonism arising from the social life conditions of an individual. That is why this social formation ends the prehistory of human society.” (17)
The main difficulty in Marx’s theory lies in its definition of the relation between the capitalist mode of developing the productive forces and nature. According to Marx, nature alienates itself from man through the “alienated labour”, which dispossesses him of the “object of his production”. (18) So long as the capitalist development of the productive forces involves not only “possessing” and “using” (19) but also destroying nature, man is becoming increasingly dependent on what is left of nature. Instead of being a system that creates the conditions of “leaping from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom” (Engels), capitalism abolishes every possibility of man’s freedom. Capitalism does not only mark the end of the “prehistory” of the human race, it marks the end of its existence. Marx subordinated the dialectic of capitalism to the dialectic of history and overlooked the specific character of the capitalist development of the productive forces, which leads not only to man being controlled (through technique) by capital and his alienation from nature, but also to a destruction of life. It follows that the relation of man to himself, other people and nature is not mediated only by the “alienated labour”, but also by the destructive nature of the capitalist mode of production. Thus, mankind does not “set to itself only those tasks that it is capable of solving”; it is rather that capitalism sets before mankind the “tasks” which involve collaboration in the destruction of life. The dynamic and dramatic character of capitalist “progress” is conditioned by the fact that capitalism turns the consequences of the destruction of life into the sources of profit, transforming man’s creative powers into the means of developing the destructive powers of capitalism and accelerating the process of destruction. That Marx was aware of this serious contradiction in his theory can be seen from his “overlooking” Fourier’s warning, written in the beginning of the 19th century, which is an exceptionally fruitful starting point for a critique of capitalism: “Thus our societies, in spite of the promoters and representatives of property, find themselves in a complex retrogression, that is to say, in material retrogression due to an ever bigger destruction of forests, plains, springs, climate…” (20) However, it is precisely Marx’s theory that enables us to realize the idea of true progress and establish a critical distance to capitalism: only that mode of development of the productive forces can be accepted which leads to the liberation of man from his dependence on nature, and not such leading to its destruction. The development of the productive forces is indeed a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for progress. In the present circumstances, we consider progressive the order which is capable of stopping the capitalist machinery of death and preserving nature and mankind from destruction.
The ecocidal capitalist fury has given rise to a genocidal doctrine and practice that “overcome” both Malthus’ theory and Nazi barbarism: destroying more and more people becomes the basical condition of the survival of fewer and fewer people. Just as the Nazi Olympics were a “pacifying” mask behind which the hasty preparations to exterminate the Jews, Slavs and Gypsies were being carried out, today’s international sport is a “peacekeeping” smoke screen concealing the intention of a “new world order” to destroy the largest part of the mankind and ensure the survival of the “golden billion” from the most developed capitalist countries in the West which mercilessly destroy life on earth. At the same time, as mankind is more and more dramatically confronted with a possibility of the final destruction of life, to find possible democratic alternatives becomes highly unlikely. The creation of a “new world order”, by which the multinational concerns seek to destroy the institutional structure of states, which enables citizens to express their sovereign political will and defend their existential interests, is conditioned by capitalist destruction. The development of a totalitarian mind goes hand in hand with the destruction of life: capitalism destroys the democratic institutions and the embryo of a novum created in civil society and establishes a global fascism based on an ecocidal terrorism.
The work applies the same method used in Marx’s critique of religion; however, his critique of religion is the “critique of the valley of tears”, whose fantastic aureole is religion, while the critique of modern Olympic paganism is the critique of the capitalist valley of death, whose spectacular aureole is Olympism. Sport is of vital importance as the starting point for a contemporary critical theory of society. The distinctive feature of critique of Olympism comes from the fact that capitalism is becoming a “pure” system of destruction, which throws a new light on sport as the embodiment of capitalist relationships and values as well as on Olympism as their “humane” mask. Sport has become the industry of death and the mirror reflecting the true face of capitalism. The absolutization of the Social Darwinist principle bellum omnium contra omnes, and the progressistic principle citius, altius, fortius has started the process of mankind’s self-destruction. Sport brings the process of man’s destruction to its end and thus represents the image of the capitalist relation to nature. Sportsmen are not only the labour force, as Habermas and Rigauer maintain in their critique of sport, (21) but also the tool and the object of labour, and sport is not only a form of decultivization, but also a form of man’s denaturalization (robotization). A growing discrepancy between the biological possibilities of man and the requirements set to him by “progress”, leads to an increasing oppression of man and a monstrous destruction of his body and mind: the sportsman becomes the capitalist surrogate of man. Olympism, as the political theory of sport, is not just a form of creating a civilization without culture, but the ideology of death. The “development of sport” in the most obvious way confirms the truth that there is not a single mechanism in capitalism that can deflect the established “progress” from its road to destruction, and that the social institutions and the normative firmament of bourgeois society have become the means of protection and development of capitalism. The bourgeois theory got the worse of it: the ideologues of capitalism have become the cleaners of its dirty trail and the gravediggers of mankind. Capitalism also “devours” its (spiritual) children.
Sport symbolizes the end of a civilization based on the Social Darwinist doctrine and the absolutized principle of performance: the principle of “competition” has become the principle of domination, while the principle of “progress” has become the principle of destruction. From the ideology of an emerging and developing capitalist society, Olympism has turned into the ideology of a disintegrating capitalist society, whose accumulated destructive power threatens mankind with destruction. Sports fields are dominated not by a visionary, but by an apocalyptic spirit. Sport is the most efficient way of drawing man into the horrible whirl of self-destructive madness, created by the capitalist “progress”, similarly to the self-destructive mania of the ancient states (polis) that led to the decline of the Hellenic world. It destroys not only the consciousness of the deadly consequences of further development of capitalism, but also the consciousness of the objective possibilities of its overcoming and of realizing the guiding principle of the French Revolution. In view of the horrible scale of world destruction, it can be said that Olympism is the hood that the executioner has pulled over the head of mankind before applying his axe. The hour has struck: either mankind will destroy capitalism, or capitalism will destroy mankind.