Faster, Higher, Stronger: The Birth of the Modern Olympics


By Michael Biddiss, published 31st May 1996

As the leading athletes of all nations prepare to come together this summer in Atlanta, the global communications media of the late twentieth century are constantly reminding us that 1996 marks the first centenary of the modern Olympic Games. The worldwide impact now made by these sporting festivals is all the more remarkable in that they were initiated chiefly through the energetic drive of one man, Baron Pierre de Coubertin. Why did this young and wealthy French aristocrat set out, in the early 1890s, to span the gulf of 1500 years elapsing since the original series of Olympics had ended? And what extent did his efforts involve an ‘invention’, rather than straightforward restoration, of classical tradition?

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