Manual Discourses of Olympism: From the Sorbonne 1894 to London 2012

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They believe this is a worthy goal that can unite and energize entire communities as well as foster identity and improve the morale of citizens.

From a deconstructionist perspective it is not the facts of IOC commercialism that determine how Barney et al. Instead, they bring a set of ontological and epistemological beliefs to the facts that they use to create a history, rather than to discover the past as it actually was. As well as traditional narratives, olympic history supports advocacy as a paradigmatic form of reconstructionism. Advocates make a virtue of their forensic interrogation of sources.

But as Robert Berkhofer , p. Factual arguments are rife in olympic history. Did British athletes compete in the olympic games in St Louis Gordon, , pp. In this chapter the term advocate refers exclusively to those historians whose basic objective is to debunk myths associated with the olympic games.

The best 21 Douglas Booth example is arguably David Young , who exposes the myth that ancient Greek Olympians were amateurs.

Discourses of Olympism : From the Sorbonne to London - ecimpirepcons.gq

Advocates combine two methods: forensic interrogation of the evidence, and examination of the motives and interests of myth builders. After scouring the literature, Young , p. Young then proceeds to identify the key propagators of the amateur myth as a band of second-rate classical scholars Paul Shorey, John Mahaffy, Percy Gardner, E. Gardiner, H. With the exception of Gardner, whom Young , p.

Spain vs USA - Gold Medal Match - Beijing 2008 - Throwback Thursday

What criteria should historians use to assess the neutrality or objectivity of advocates? Dennis Smith , p. On this basis Smith , p. Young is a first-rate judge. Bruce Kidd exemplifies the partisan eyewitness in his advocacy for Toronto as an olympic host Kidd, and for olympic education Kidd, In contrast to the partisan eyewitness, the expert witness is genuinely free from involvement and achieves a high degree of detachment.

Whether such a scholar exists in olympic history is doubtful. Lastly, leading counsels express a high degree of involvement and shun notions of detachment. Leading counsels identify strongly with the interests of specific groups they research. Unabashed 22 Questioning Olympic Historiography defenders of the olympics e. Lucas, ; Howell, and staunch critics e. Booth and Tatz, ; Lenskyj, , qualify as leading counsels.

Interestingly, Hoberman , p. Contextual Paradigm Nothing is more fundamental in the lexicon and methodology of history than context Struna, , pp. The general consensus is contextualization establishes patterns that share relationships beyond a temporal juxtaposition. Philosopher William Walsh elaborates. Historians, he says initially confront what looks like a largely unconnected mass of material, and. In specifying what was going on at the time, [historians] both sum up individual events and tell us how to take them.

Walsh, , p. Arthur Marwick delineates contextual relationships using a model comprising four principal components: 1. Human agencies politicians, presidents, prime ministers, protest movements. Convergences and contingencies interrelationships between events and human agencies that generate unforeseen events and circumstances.

Both scholars endeavour to understand the olympic movement within the context of twentieth-century nationalism and international political relations. Nationalism and international politics provided ideological forces in the forms of fascism, the Cold War and decolonization; all sharpened the olympic games as surrogate war. International political crises invariably spilled over into the games.


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The Soviet invasion of Hungary in precipitated a bloody torrid encounter when the two countries met in a water polo match in the Melbourne olympics. Apartheid and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan precipitated boycotts. Likewise, events and human agents have frequently converged to generate new, unforseen circumstances. For example, in the s the end of the Cold War, the commercial success of the Los Angeles games, and a politically ambitious president of the IOC converged to contribute to a renewed interest in hosting the games.

In other words, historians working in the contextualist paradigm cannot avoid judgements. Guttmann and Senn , for example, deem political philosophy the most relevant ideological context; Douglas Brown by contrast privileges the social philosophy of modernist aesthetics. Guttmann and Senn ignore the dramatological. Reconstructionists and constructionists both utilize the contextual paradigm. However, they conceptualize it differently. The reconstructionist perspective prevails in olympic history. This has particular relevance for the 24 Questioning Olympic Historiography next explanatory paradigm: comparison.

As Robert Berkhofer explains, where contextualism renders the unit of study and its context unique, comparative history practically becomes an oxymoron. Comparitive Paradigm Comparisons involving allusions to another case in order to illustrate or highlight aspects of a particular case abound in olympic history. Comparisons include instances of similar or different kinds and they range across space, time, practices, ideologies, institutions, groups and individuals.

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Comparing traditional Western and popular East European perceptions of the olympic movement, James Riordan identifies two competing sets of ideas see Table 1. Historical research is not conducive to comparative approaches that require primary sources from different regions, spanning long time periods, or which demand high competence in more than one language. In practice, historical competence and expertise is typically confined to precise time periods and geographical regions that become smaller as the number of sources escalates. Comparing the costs and benefits of economic and non-economic factors over the eight summer olympic games held since , Holger Preuss confronted an array of methodological obstacles: changing economic contexts, shifting political climates, different organizing committees and governments pursuing different motives and financing models, and speaking different languages, incompatible accounting systems, and diverse urban geographies.

Table 1. However, not even Hoberman uses his concept of idealistic internationalism to construct a causal historical explanation. Edward Carr , pp.

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Causal Paradigm As with the contextualization and comparative explanatory paradigms, conservative reconstructionists and constructionists conceptualize causation differently. The former assume direct relationships between causes and effects. Here a set of purely fortuitous or contingent and agent driven factors transformed international perspectives about hosting the games.

And the Los Angeles organizing committee exploited this situation to impose its commercial interests and demands on the IOC. Indeed, interest in hosting the games had been in decline since the s with three cities bidding for , two for and and just one for Following Los Angeles six cities bid to host , five for and eleven for Roche, , p. Most reconstructionists, and certainly constructionists, regard contingent factors as superficial and search for the causes of phenomena elsewhere.

Many olympic historians allude to social structures but structural causation tends to play second fiddle to contextualization particularly ideological forces e. First and Second World Wars and human agents e. In large part this stems from the failure of olympic historians to adequately deal with the concept of structure. Often used to describe simple patterns identified by observation, in social history implicit assumptions usually underpin the term structure: 26 Questioning Olympic Historiography first, that the phenomenon under inspection can be analyzed as a series of component units of a specified type e.

Waters, , p. International mega-events, such as expos and sports tournaments, are integral to the functioning of modernity. They offered early moderns an opportunity to review their lives and relationships in a world that promised to satisfy their needs for identity but which, under the impetus of industrialization, scientization, militarization and state violence, threatened their very social and individual existence per se Roche, , pp.

Lastly, the allure of positive international images and status Roche, , p. Competition to host olympic games existed from before the First World War and continued into the s two cities bid for , three for , four for the cancelled games of and six for Interest in hosting the olympics games returned after the Second World War with seven and nine cities bidding for the and games respectively.

Similarly, while threats of boycotts and exorbitant costs appear to have put a brake on hosting the olympics in the late s and early s, that pressure did not extend to other mega-sporting events, as the goodwill games, gay games and fresh interest in the football world cup testify. On the other hand, although structural analysis would undoubtedly sharpen some olympic history, it is susceptible to reductionism, the glossing over of complexity. Questions about increasing commercialization, the appropriation of the games as a tool of national identity, and the integration of women and racial and ethnic minorities, occupy many olympic historians.

Yet, as previously noted, olympic historians have generally shied from theory, neither constructing it nor employing it as a heuristic device. In dealing with social change, the vast majority of olympic historians draw upon contextualization, emphasizing new social forces, events and agents but, as noted earlier, they typically conceptualize social forces such as the economy and technology as vague sets of conditions rather than determining structures.

Phillips contextualizes the increasing number of women selected in Australian olympic teams during the twentieth century against broader social changes with particular credence given to the growing independence of women precipitated by their movement into the workforce after the two world wars. Like many other olympic historians working in the social change paradigm, Phillips details the lives of individual agents, in particular the struggles waged by female olympians against societal norms and family pressures.

Triple gold medallist Shirley Strickland 28 Questioning Olympic Historiography left home at 12 to attend boarding school. While still at school, she participated in a wide variety of sports but her main interests were academic. Intelligent and capable, she was determined to go to university. Refused admission to engineering when the faculty told her that there were no female toilets in the building, she took an honours degree in nuclear physics at the University of Western Australia.

Phillips, , p. A teacher once had told me about the Greek ideal of harmony and balance and I wanted to test my capabilities. Such detail earns peer respect. Linguistic Paradigm Since the mids social historians have shown a growing interest in cultural aspects of sport, that is, how different groups employ symbols, language, texts and the like to create traditions, embody values, propagate ideas and nurture institutions. Such is the attention to culture that one can legitimately talk about a cultural turn.