How to Spread and Develop Joint International Programs about Olympic Education: Cultural and Communication Problems

### Introduction

From its inception, the Modern Olympic Movement has fused education with sport and culture to improve both the body and mind. Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the Modern Olympic Games, crafted a vision of universal education through Olympism, spreading such ideals as discipline, focus, vision, commitment, and persistence.

The Olympic Charter (OC) is the codification of the Fundamental Principles of Olympism, Rules and Bye-Laws adopted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It governs the organisation, action, and operation of the Olympic Movement and sets forth the conditions for the celebration of the Olympic Games. In essence, the Olympic Charter serves three main purposes (IOC, 2007).

* The Olympic Charter, as a basic instrument of a constitutional nature, sets forth and recalls the fundamental principles and essential values of Olympism.
* The Olympic Charter also serves as statutes for the International Olympic Committee.
* In addition, the Olympic Charter defines the main reciprocal rights and obligations of the three main constituents of the Olympic Movement, namely the International Olympic Committee, the International Federations, and the National Olympic Committees, as well as the Organising Committees for the Olympic Games, all of which are required to comply with the Olympic Charter (IOC, 2007).

Fundamental to the understanding of Olympism is its emphasis on an educational mandate. In fact, the “Olympic idea cannot be understood without an understanding of its educational mission” (Gessman, 1992:33). This educational mandate is outlined in several of the Fundamental Principles of the Olympic Charter (Binder, 2005).

The Olympic Charter (2007) states simply the relationship among Olympic philosophy, ethics, and education:

Fundamental Principle 1 and 2 (p11):

1. Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will, and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.
2. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.

This is a values education mandate. Some of the specific, positive values referred to in these principles include a respect for balance in the human character between aspects of mind, body, and spirit, an understanding of the joy found in effort, an emphasis on peaceful behaviour, and respect for others (here described as preservation of human dignity). The principles, while somewhat awkward in their English wording, also include direction for an Olympic pedagogy. That is, the fundamental principles seem to suggest components of a possible teaching and learning strategy. Note the references to such strategies as, “blending sport with culture and education,” setting “good examples,” and encouraging participation in sport as an educational situation in which these values can be developed (Binder, 2005).

### National Olympic Committees

Chapter 4 of the Olympic Charter deals with National Olympic Committees, stating very clearly important duties of NOCs with regard to Olympic education (IOC, 2007, p. 61).

Mission and Role of the NOCs:

1. The mission of the NOCs is to develop, promote, and protect the Olympic Movement in their respective countries, in accordance with the Olympic Charter (IOC, 2007).
2. The NOCs’ role is:

1. to promote the fundamental principles and values of Olympism in their countries, in particular, in the fields of sport and education, by promoting Olympic educational programmes in all levels of schools, sports and physical education institutions and Universities, as well as by encouraging the creation of institutions dedicated to Olympic education, such as National Olympic Academies, Olympic Museums, and other programmes, including cultural, related to the Olympic Movement (IOC, 2007);
2. to ensure the observance of the Olympic Charter in their countries (IOC, 2007).

### National Olympic Academies

National Olympic Academies are an integral part of the International Olympic Academy and the Olympic Movement (Georgiadis, 2008). Georgiadis further elaborates that, once the IOA had begun its activities, a number of important and substantial issues related to its operation and linked to the attainment of its goals came to light. It became obvious that IOA needed support of other organizations in order to respond to the educational requirements of the Olympic Movement.

> Attending lectures during the IOA’s sessions was not considered sufficient to make participants aware of the academy’s mission and their own contribution to it.
>
> The selection of the participants, their preliminary training, their stay at the International Olympic Academy, and the need to draw upon their knowledge and experience, led to the creation of national centres for Olympic studies in other countries.

Georgiadis goes on to explain that participants in the IOA sessions and seminars now had a point of reference in their own respective countries around which they could rally in order to develop their Olympic education activities in cooperation with IOA.

Georgiadis notes that, in the discussion groups at the IOA’s sessions, the idea of a “National Olympic Academy” is considered as a popular topic. In the same observation, Georgiadis further recounts that, as many Olympic Committees do not comply with their educational obligations in a consistent manner, participants at the sessions have demanded the creation of National Olympic Academies (NOAs) to allow those who attend the sessions of the IOA once they return to their country to become involved in their core activities and operate as the ambassadors of Olympism in their homelands.

Today, 32 years after the establishment of the first National Olympic Academies, the aim of each Olympic Academy is, through Olympic Education programs, to cultivate and disseminate the Olympic Ideal, study and apply the universal education and social principles of the Olympic Movement, in conformity with the Olympic Charter, within the national and cultural boundaries of each National Olympic Committee, in cooperation with the IOA and the IOC.

These aims are achieved by NOAs by the means of programs which they develop themselves in collaboration with the NOC and other sports and educational entities in their country. National Olympic Academies are the IOA’s extensions and operate as transmitters and receivers for the promotion of the Olympic Charter’s ideals through the national Olympic education programs. Each national Olympic Academy must also encourage the practice of sport among all social and age groups and promote the idea of sport as a fundamental human right.

Georgiadis elaborates that “National Olympic Academies operate within the framework of their respective National Olympic Committees and their aims are in harmony with those of the NOCs.” The NOAs are the educational institutions of the NOCs. Even when there are differences in their structures and modes of operation, they must always be placed under the patronage of the NOC within the framework of a single Olympic Movement. It would be very difficult today to define a single system for the operation of NOAs, as there are huge administrative, cultural, and political differences from country to country.

The goal of education – of Olympism – may is summarized in a quote from 2000 by then IOC President, Juan Antonio Samaranch: “Every act of support for the Olympic Movement promotes peace, friendship, and solidarity throughout the world.”

The field of Olympic education has been studied in-depth by numerous international scholars. They have endeavoured to analyze the core of Olympic education so as to avoid the concept of Olympic education being regarded merely as a pool of all highly social and moral values. It is more or less commonly agreed that the idea of Olympic education first and foremost encompasses the long-ranging striving for individual achievement with due respect for the principles of fair play and an increase in a better transnational mutual understanding by supporting processes of intercultural learning.

In the course of the last decades, some scholars have successfully endeavoured to spread the main ideas of Olympic education. The main target groups have been students and pupils. At the International Olympic Academy in Olympia, as well as at conferences organized by various National Olympic Committees, Olympic Academies, and institutes of learning, students are offered the possibility of examining basic ideas of Olympic education.

Frequently the students bring their experience and knowledge back to their home universities in order to integrate them into classes or tutorials. Without doubt, this is a fruitful way to disseminate the central values of Olympic education.

According to Binder, Olympic education in its broadest sense encompasses the workshops and leadership training of Olympic Solidarity, the research and scholarly study of sport historians and sociologists, the public relations efforts of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), its sponsors and its affiliates, as well as the school curricula, handbooks and projects of Olympic Games organizing committees, National Olympic Committees (NOCs), and National Olympic Academies (NOAs). It also encompasses a large variety of initiatives for children and youth (Binder D., 1995).

### International Olympic Academy

The International Olympic Academy functions as a multicultural interdisciplinary centre that aims at studying, enriching, and promoting Olympism. The foundation of such an institution was inspired by the ancient Gymnasium, which shaped the Olympic Ideal by harmoniously cultivating body, will, and mind. On the eve of the 21st century, the centennial anniversary of the revival of the Olympic Games coincides with the global scale changes that are affecting every aspect of human thought and activity.

We, our cultures, and our civilisations have already entered a greater transitional period in which the images of the world that we were used to taking for granted are being altered. The interrelated scientific, technological, economic, political, and social developments that characterise the course of humanity towards the third millennium are influencing each and every idea, norm, and institution of our international community.

This dynamic wave is also opening up new forms of dialogue for the future of Olympism. Moreover, as can be seen through the study of its age-long history, the Olympic Ideal has always been conceived and formed according to the wider conditions prevailing during different periods in time.

The birth, the prosperity, the decline, and the revival of the Olympic Games have all been the reflection of the wider cultural conditions that shaped each era.

The speculations and potentials still evolving out of the Olympic Movement are naturally arising in the realisation process of such an Ideal.

“Olympism,” in the words of Pierre de Coubertin, “is not a system; it is a state of mind. It can permeate a wide variety of modes of expression, and no single race or era can claim to have the monopoly of it.”

The International Olympic Academy provides a unique opportunity for students, academics, athletes, artists, and officials from all over the world to exchange ideas and share this “state of mind” in Ancient Olympia.

The wide variety of educational sessions, academic programmes, and in depth research studies that are offered all aim towards serving the vision of the International Olympic Academy for the new century: to explore and enhance the contribution of Olympism to humanity.

The mission of the IOA is:

1. to function as an International Academic Centre for Olympic Studies, Education, and Research;
2. to act as an International Forum for free expression and exchange of ideas among the Olympic Family, intellectuals, scientists, athletes, sport administrators, educators, artists, and the youth of the world;
3. to bring together people from all over the world, in a spirit of friendship and cooperation;
4. to motivate people to use the experiences and knowledge gained in the IOA productively, in promoting the Olympic Ideals in their respective countries;
5. to serve and promote the Ideals and principles of the Olympic Movement;
6. to cooperate with and assist the National Olympic Academies and any other institutions devoted to Olympic Education;
7. to further explore and enhance the contribution of Olympism to humanity.

### Educational Programmes of the International Olympic Academy

* International Session for Young Participants
* International Post Graduate Seminar on Olympic Studies
* Joint International Session for Directors of NOAs, Members, and Staff of NOCs and IFs
* Joint International Session for Educationists and Staff of Higher Institutes of Physical Education
* International Session for Sports Journalists
* Special Sessions for institutions related with Olympism: National Olympic Committees, National Olympic Academies, International Sport Federations, Sport Medical Societies, Unions of Coaches, Referees, Sports Administrators, etc.
* Special Sessions for Institutions indirectly related with Olympism (C.I.S.M., Teachers, etc.) aiming to promote the Olympic Ideal
* Educational visits of groups from various institutions (universities, graduate schools, schools, sports clubs)
* Visits of Researchers of Olympic subjects
* Conferences on Sports

All the IOA Sessions are held in Ancient Olympia, and participants are accommodated in the guestrooms located on the Academy grounds.

The IOA has three official languages, English, French and Greek, and participants must be fluent in at least one in order to participate in the educational programmes. The Joint Session for Presidents or Directors of NOAs and Officials of NOCs, is perhaps the most important of all the sessions for the success of almost all the other sessions. This biannual Session aims to bring together Senior Administrators from organizations engaged in creating Olympic Education programmes and involved in educational and social activities aiming to promote the Olympic Movement.

The IOA’s role is to coordinate and assist the NOAs in their work, and this Session provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and educational programmes and the presentation of the activities of the NOAs and NOCs in different countries. Communication and the working culture of the NOCs and NOAs is of paramount importance in the success of these sessions. The choice of participants, preparation, and commitment of the participants is key to the realization of the intended objective.

This year’s session is the tenth in the series. As such, there is need to reflect on the organization and management of these joint sessions so as to improve the quality of the sessions and to realise the intended goal, that of developing and spreading Olympic Education. Communication is an important factor in the success of any humankind undertaking. Several factors contribute either positively or negatively on communication, such as timeliness, language, clarity, accuracy, medium, feedback or response, and ability to follow instruction, the working culture or policy of an organization in relation to communication issues.

This paper sets out to present the problems encountered in the quest of organizing such sessions, specifically focusing on cultural and communication problems.

### Methodology

The literature review method was the primary method used in developing this paper. Published and unpublished sources have been used. Correspondence between IOA, and NOAs, and NOCs, past session presentations and Conclusions were also reviewed. Personal experience from attending a number of sessions of IOA and discussions with IOA Masters students (2009 / 2010), have all been taken into consideration.

### Findings and discussion

* Often times there has been confusion between delegates of NOAs and NOCs to the extent that the IOA has had to request NOAs and NOCs to clearly state whether or not a delegate is a member of NOA or NOC. Sometimes delegates have been sent who are not involved in the Education functions of the NOAs or NOCs.
* Quite a number of delegates are sent to Olympia without prior preparation as to what to expect and what is expected of them. With some countries, there is a turn-over every year, where the policy is to award the trip to members of the NOC in turns. As such, there is no continuity; this has forced the IOA to insist that the President / Director of NOAs must attend the Directors and the joint sessions.
* Non adherence to Final Enrolment date: “We have noticed in the past that many NOAs or NOCs do not submit their application forms in due time. We hereby would like to bring to your attention that no application submitted after the expiry date will be considered.”
* Language: Participants must have an excellent knowledge of either English or French, since they are expected to take active part in the discussion groups which follow the lectures. This is the quintessence of the IOA’s activities, i.e., to get people from all over the world to know and contact one another. It has been repeatedly noticed in the past that quite a few participants cannot understand or speak either English or French and consequently, they are unable to participate fully in the discussion groups. Therefore, all NOCs and NOAs are kindly requested to avoid sending over delegates who do not speak fluently at least one of the above two languages.
* Working relationship between NOAs and NOCs is another challenge that features prominently in the conclusions of the group discussions of the sessions, especially as relates to accessibility to information and financial support. This problem is more pronounced in countries which rely solely on Olympic Solidarity funding. Rarely are any Olympic Education activities undertaken for want of funding. In most other NOCs, NOAs exist only on paper, and no activities take place apart from attending the sessions here in Olympia.
* In the conclusions of English Speaking Group 5, during the 9th International Session For Directors of National Olympic Academies (1- 8 June 2007), Ibrahim Abazid, et, al., considered the challenges, difficulties, and solutions to implementing Olympic Education Program and concluded that there are three key challenges that needed to be addressed. They named these as: relationship between NOA and NOC, communication, and financial difficulties.

### Conclusion

We observe from the above that there are communication problems within the key players involved in the development and dissemination of International Joint Sessions on Olympic Education, namely, the IOC (through OS), the IOA, the NOCs, and NOAs. The gap is more pronounced between NOCs and NOAs. This communication problem is both in terms of availability and timeliness, as well as response or feedback.

This is a result of poor working relationship between NOCs and NOAs; the main cause has been attributed to non-information sharing by the NOCs, even in instances where NOAs are directly under the NOC. NOAs are hardly ever made aware of the funding opportunities from Olympic Solidarity. Even the funds provided to NOCs under “Other Activities” are hardly ever communicated to NOAs; and the quadrennial plans which offer a number of opportunities are unknown to most NOA officials.

It is also noted that in some cases, the NOAs are only on paper, or spring up when it is time for a trip to Olympia; no initiatives are done to organize and spread Olympic education in the respective countries. The young participants who are sent to Olympia are not chosen on merit since there are no Olympic Education activities, in some countries.

Officials not involved in Olympic Education have been sent to these sessions, while being fully aware that they will not involve themselves in the dissemination of Olympic Education when they go back to their countries. NOCs should work together with NOAs to select the best candidates based on merit to attend such sessions. A system should be developed to ensure that those who attend these sessions have the knowledge, motivation, and commitment to embark on creation and spreading of Olympic Education.

A working guideline should be developed to ensure a smooth working relationships among the key players in the development and spread of Olympic Education, namely: the IOC (through Olympic Solidarity), the IOA, the NOCs, and the NOAs. This document should be made available to all and be posted on the IOC and IOA websites.

### References

Binder, D.L. (2005). Challenges and Models for successful Olympic Education Initiatives at Grassroots Level. Paper presented during Forum organized by the Centre for Olympic Studies – Olympic Perspectives.

Binder, D. L. (2007).Teaching Values: An Olympic Education Toolkit. International Olympic Committee, 2007.

Binder, D. L. (2005). Teaching Olympism in Schools: Olympic Education as a focus on Values Education. University of Barcelona – Olympic Studies Centre.

Georgiadis, K. (2008). National Olympic Academies. International Olympic Academy. 9th Joint International Session for Presidents or Directors of National Olympic Academies and Officials of National Olympic Committees 12 – 19 May 2008; Conclusions.

International Olympic Academy – circular Ref. No.: 1376 / KG /st Athens, 8th December 2009.

International Olympic Academy. 8th International Session for Directors of National Olympic Academies 18th – 25th April 2005; Conclusions.

International Olympic Academy. 8th Joint International Session for Presidents or Directors of National Olympic Academies and Officials of National Olympic Committees 23 – 30 May 2006; Conclusions.

International Olympic Academy. 9th International Session for Directors of National Olympic Academies 1 – 8 June 2007; Conclusions.

International Olympic Academy. 9th Joint International Session for Presidents or Directors of National Olympic Academies and Officials of National Olympic Committees 12 – 19 May 2008; Conclusions.

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