Bearing in mind that Coubertin called the international sports tournament of “civilized nations” the “Olympic Games”, it could be expected that play will be the chief concern of Coubertin’s Olympic doctrine; however, Coubertin’s Olympism does not consider sport as play. The theory that play is the essence of sport excludes sport from Coubertin’s “utilitarian pedagogy”, since according to it sport is a universal political means of the ruling parasitic classes for achieving their strategic interests, and places it within a far wider sociological and philosophical context, which represents a complex and dangerous challenge for a pragmatic positivist such as Coubertin.
The definition of sport as the highest religious ceremony dedicated to the creation of the cult of the present world, where the Olympic Games acquire the status of the “Church”, is one of the main reasons for Coubertin’s depriving the Olympic Games (sport) of a playing nature. Instead of a playing spontaneity, the sacral seriousness becomes the distinctive feature of the strict form which the Olympic Games, the highest ceremony dedicated to the belligerent spirit that rules the world – which is the reincarnation of the “immortal spirit of antiquity” – must keep. A militaristic ceremony crowned by the oath which symbolizes a complete submission of the participants to the ruling order, is the most appropriate form for cult acts. Uniforms, flags and marching make Eros, spontaneity, imagination and creativeness disappear – all that creates man’s playing nature. Furthermore, play involves the rules equal for all, which is for Coubertin the highest blasphemy, since according to him “might is right ” is the basic life principle. In his “sports republic” Coubertin does not insist on the norms obligatory on all, but on the order characterized by the indisputable domination of the strong over the weak. Unlike the bourgeois philosophy of play, which considers play (including sport) within the formation of normative and institutional framework which should protect society from the destructive force of man’s “aggressive” animal nature, Coubertin considers sport in terms of removing all the norms and institutions which place barriers to the bourgeois greediness and to the expansion of European colonial states. For Coubertin, sport is the most important means for militarizing and fanaticizing the bourgeois youth and is thus the preparation for a conquering war. Third, the idea of a sports community as a playing community is alien to Coubertin. Wishing to break the bonds between people, Coubertin reduces his positive people to Leibniz’s monads: “competitive” confrontation of the members of the “master race”, as “brothers-in-arms”, and their oppression of the working “masses”, women and colonized peoples, are the points of “interhuman” contact. For Coubertin, sport is the most authentic form of playing a life based on the principle bellum omnium contra omnes: the stronger go on, the weaker are eliminated. At the same time, a victory achieved through a higher result, on which “progress” is based, is the foundation and limit of a sports play. As far as “sports technique” is concerned, it becomes a way of degenerating and destroying man’s playing nature and the possibility of its realization. In sport, a patterned playing technique is mastered, “supplied” from the world of technique and involving the instrumentalization of the body through a technicized productivistic activism, whose purpose is defined by the nature of sports play as war with bodies. At the same time, by reducing the body to the tool for acquiring inhuman ends and to the object of manipulation, a (self) destructive character is formed. A merciless relation of man to his own body becomes the foundation of a merciless relation to the “opponent”, who is seen not as a man, but as an enemy who is to be subdued and destroyed. The typical examples are the so called “martial sports”, which, according to Coubertin, are the main means for educating the children and which are based on the “right” to inflict bodily injuries and kill the “opponent”. That is why Coubertin gives primacy to muscular strength, speed, resolve, courage – which are supposed to build a ruthless character of the bourgeois who, with fire and sword, will conquer the world – as opposed to the development of man’s playing being and playing skill directed to the development of interhuman relations. Coubertin’s theory brings out what the bourgeois theory attempts to hide: sport does not derive “spontaneously” from “man’s aggressive (animal) nature”, but is a forced model of behavior and is thus a means for creating people at the measure of the ruling order. “Sports play” becomes a capitalist way of degenerating man as a playing being.