Myths in the History of the Ancient and Modern Olympics
Professor of Classics
University of Winnipeg
March 15, 2006
The Stockdale Center
Monmouth College, Monmouth,
The 2004 Athens Olympics brought new reminders of the links between our modern
games and the ancient Olympic festival and of the foundation of the modern games
by the French baron, Pierre de Coubertin, in 1896. As it happens, however, many
of these links are imaginary or misleading and the modern games were first
conceived and celebrated by Greeks before Coubertin's birth.
These facts are well known to specialists but still fail to make any impact on
contemporary media or popular culture. The reason? We use the past mainly to
provide lessons or make arguments about the present. The result is not only bad
history but a limitation on our choices of action today.
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