Olympism as a positive religion


As far as the relation between Olympism and religion is concerned, Coubertin, unlike many of his followers who try to conceal the true nature of modern Olympism, is crystal clear: “The first essential characteristic of ancient and of modern Olympism alike is that of being a religion.” (1) Departing from Compte’s philosophy, Coubertin seeks to establish a new spiritual system which will correspond to the Social Darwinist and progressistic spirit of capitalism, “incorporate” all social (class) contradictions that prevent the development of capitalism and enable its limitless global expansion. It is the creation of a “dynamic religion” (Brundage) which, apart from being efficient in establishing “social peace” and introducing “control in heads” (Coubertin), is capable of “overcoming” the existing (static) religions (discarding their emancipatory heritage) since it is not limited by a certain way of life and by national cultures, but springs from a “dynamic”, universal and totalitarian spirit of capitalist globalism. Bearing in mind the spiritual sources of the Olympic idea, we can conclude that Olympism is a formulated, and by way of the Olympic movement and the Olympic Games, realized positive religion, which is “analogous to positive philosophy” (Prokop) and which should, in the Modern Age, play the part of traditional religion in the Middle Ages. Olympism becomes a spiritual firmament from which derives all “humanism” and which offers final answers to the crucial questions of human existence. Hence, to speak of Olympism means to glorify it. At the same time, Olympism erases the difference between religious and secular spheres: life itself becomes a service to the Olympic gods. Modern Olympism tends to be an indisputable spiritual power to which man serves not only through contemplation, meditation, prayers and kneeling, but, like in antiquity, through his regular agonistic activism. Life as a constant struggle between people, nations and races for a place under the sun – that is the essence of Olympic piety. In that sense, sport is an idealized form of the “true” life, while the Olympic Games are a symbolic incarnation of the spiritual and active unity of the world. Bearing in mind Coubertin’s endeavour to eliminate critical rationalism and the emancipatory heritage of mankind, it can be said that it is a peculiar totalitarian thought as well as a totalitarian spiritual and political movement. Olympism becomes a “black hole” in which all hints of stepping out of the existing world are to disappear.

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