IOC Culture and Olympic Education Forum : Introduction

Since its origins, the Olympic Movement has always wished to associate the movements of sport with the thought processes linked to cultural activity, be it sculpture, paintings, literature, music or architecture. At the start of the third millennium, this desire clearly remains as relevant as ever, and the Olympic Museum in Lausanne is a living illustration of this.

It is particularly significant that, in the framework of the reforms recently carried out by the International Olympic Committee, its Commission for Olympic Culture and Education has invited a number of internationally renowned specialists to meet to share their thoughts about the development of its cultural policy.

We would like to thank them for their invaluable contribution and wish the numerous participants a pleasant stay in Lausanne, Olympic capital.

Juan Antonia Samaranch President of the International Olympic Committee

IOC Culture and Olympic Education Forum : Preface

It is often said and repeated that Olympism is sport and culture. This is not a simple definition, it is a program that is constantly developing. The cultural dynamism of the IOC and the Olympic Movement is conveyed periodically at Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies, during all events organized a this magnificent Olympic Museum which hosts our Forum today, and in the actions carried out by the Cultural Commission which has recently merged with another IOC Commission to become the new Commission for Olympic Culture and Education.

Yes, culture is the second dimension of Olympism and the IOC gives and will always give culture the importance it deserves, in accordance with its fundamental principles.

This Forum, the second we have organized, on a theme dear to our founder Pierre de Coubertin, will make us think about the IOC’s cultural policy. Given that the time to do so is limited, we will give priority to considering the future.

I thank the speakers and participants in this Forum for pursuing with us the ongoing consideration of the IOC’s cultural policy.

He Zhenliang
IOC Executive Board Member
Chairman of the Commission for Culture and Olympic Education

IOC Culture and Olympic Education Forum : Overview and Definition

Speaking both as a Coubertin biographer and as a professional cultural anthropologist, my analysis will consist largely of an up-date of what the founder already understood, and understood perhaps better than many of his successors do today.

The hegemonic of “default” conception of culture that still dominated Olmypic Lausanne today may be dangerously narrow and seriously out of touch with the “cultures of ‘culture'” dominant or emergent in other sectors and regions of contemporary world affairs.

Coubertin has thoroughly deconstructed the monolithic humanistic understanding of culture as cultivation into several different aspects and formulations. Culture is not only fine arts, but also folk arts, crafts, and music. Culture is language and poetics. Culture is also the logic of social organization, multiple conceptions of life, and systems of belief.

If the IOC Culture and Education Commission, the new IOC Department of Education and Culture, the Olympic Museum, the International Olympic Academy, and all of the other key agencies and sites abandoned their claims to being “fountains of universal truth” and instead set themselves the alternative task of becoming communicative centers and laboratories of multi-cultural exploration, where all of the different Olympic cultures assembled to endeavor to articulate to one another, and in their own ways and terms, the multiplicities of cultural understandings and symbolizations of Olympic meanings, then the IOC might have its world cultural relevance back.

IOC Culture and Olympic Education Forum : Linking sports with culture and education in the framework of the Cultural Olympiad

As far back as Geometric times, athletic exercise, music and dance constituted the three basic elements in the education of the young Athenians. The education of the young people of Athens had one central goal: to train them to grasp a sense of rhythm and control of harmony which would enable them to achieve the harmonious development of the body and the mind.

In modern societies, establishing a harmonious interaction between the physical and intellectual functions is considered a major challenge. The effort for developing such an interaction needs to be continuous and methodological. It needs to address the distinct characteristics of sports and culture and at the same time attempt to blend them. It needs to take advantage of the Information society which introduces new prospects in culture and education. It needs to address issues related to globalization and resist to the trends of the global market. And finally it needs to be linked with important events of global interest and significance, events which are in line with Olympism and Olympic values.

The Cultural Olympiad can support effectively the harmonious interaction between the physical and intellectual functions, provided that a number of preconditions are met and that its forces resist to commercialization and drive towards the removal of cultural and educational inequality as well as towards the convergence of sports with culture and education.

IOC Culture and Olympic Education Forum : Thesis on Culture and Olympism

In the human species individuals are born cultureless. Ancient Greeks successfully used sport in building up their brilliant civilizations. Impacts of culture and education on sport are undeniable. Sport is not only the exalting of physical activities. “To place everywhere sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to encouraging the establishment of a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of the human dignity”, as Olympism suggest, must be done.

Olympism = Sport + Education + Culture

All sports are full of certain cultural symbols and messages. It needs to disseminate through sport cultural values and, in the Olympic Movement, that is to avoid the cultural homogenization, to favour a policy linking sport with culture and education, by encouraging education programs, universities and sport institutions.

It is not only to give sports an artistic overlook and make them more elegant, but also helpful in refining basic nature of sport and enhancing their value.