chapter  3
13 Pages

The religion in Olympic tourism

ByAlex Norman, Carole M. Cusack

This article considers the dynamics of meaning and identity in the context of modern Olympic tourism through the lens of religion and spirituality. Pierre de Coubertin’s vision of the Olympics as a social institution had, from its inception, aspirations beyond the realm of sport. He conceived of a revival of the Games in 1889, and campaigned until 1894, when the international Congress established the International Olympic Committee (IOC), determining that ‘the first Games should be at Athens in 1896, the second in Paris in 1900, and thereafter every four years in other cities of the world’ (Hill, 1996, p. 21). Athletes from the 11 competing nations at the first modern Games in 1896 were drawn to the event by the force of de Coubertin’s personality, as his promotion of the nascent Olympic

and Carole M. Cusack

movement was singular and emphatic (MacAloon, 1981, pp. 154-194). Throughout its history, organisers and participants in the modern Games have used religion symbolically and rhetorically. For example, Carl Diem, the organiser of the 1936 Games in Nazi Germany, stated that the Games were undertaken with ‘a holy purpose’ (cited in Crowther, 2004, p. 446). Before the 1996 Games in Atlanta, Juan Antonio Samaranch stated that the Games were ‘more important than the Catholic religion’ (Senn, 2008).