In the aftermath of violence in Tibet in spring of 2008 and at the Olympic torch relay in England and France, rising nationalistic feelings in China drew media attention, and Chinese people around the world complained about the bias and anti-Chinese racism of the Western press. Ironically, it is just this sort of international tension and nationalism that the Olympics were instituted to allay.

Pierre de Coubertin created the modern Olympic Games as more than simply a spectacle or a romanticized imitation of the glories of ancient Greece. He was an educator with a global vision, acting at a time when the world was suffering from upheavals and conflicts—and when more conflicts loomed. He saw peaceful competition as something that would give the world’s young people maturity and confidence, and thus the ability to respond to the social, political, and economic challenges of the early twentieth century. Coubertin and his supporters were also aware that friendly international contacts would reduce prejudice, increase trust, and diminish the dangers of excessive nationalism. The Olympic Charter—the rules and regulations of the Olympic Games and the International Olympic Committee—puts it this way: “The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

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