Until the Olympics reintroduce chariot racing, Britain might have a stronger claim to the Games, according to the award-winning international news organization Christian Science Monitor.
In its article titled “Forget the Greeks, British ideals undergird the modern Olympics”, the Boston-based news organization claims that the Olympic ideal is founded on ideas that emerged in England nearly 200 years ago.
The publication’s staff writer, Mark Sappenfield, writes that the Summer Olympics – and the Olympic movement that spawned them – truly trace their origins to England. He says the core Olympic ideals of fair play, moral character, and sport’s capacity to make better men, were first cultivated in the English boarding schools and universities of the 19th century.
According to the article, many sports – rowing, fencing, equestrian, sailing, tennis, and soccer, to name a handful – originated in England.
Rowing, for instance, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge have been competing in London since 1829. Its deep roots in England are as obvious as the Olympic venue itself, England’s premier boarding school, Eton College.
As for the Olympic soccer finals, these events are slated for Wembley, a palatial stadium steeped in history.
Yet perhaps nowhere is the London effect more noticeable, according to the Christian Science Monitor, than in tennis. In Athens and Beijing, the tennis facilities appeared to have been delivered shrink-wrapped in a fleet of cargo containers. The most common color was concrete gray, and the only reason to linger on the grounds between matches was if you needed a trip to the washroom. In London, Wimbledon itself is a reason to go to tennis – regardless of the tennis.
Jacques Rogge’s statement
The article in the Christian Science Monitor comes hot on the heels of a statement made by Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, during the London Olympics opening ceremony. He said: “In a sense, the Olympic Games are coming home tonight. This great, sports-loving country is widely recognized as the birthplace of modern sport. It was here that the concepts of sportsmanship and fair play were first codified into clear rules and regulations. It was here that sport was included as an educational tool in the school curriculum.”
According to Rogge, the British approach to sport had a profound influence on Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games.
Rogge’s statement, however, immediately triggered howls of protest in Greece, according to the Guardian.
From across the Atlantic, Gregory Pappas, publisher of The Pappas Post, joined the debate with a column criticizing Rogge for his statement. “There is no other ‘sort of’ home, or how did you put it—‘in a sense’ home,” he says. “London is about as home to the Olympics as Los Angeles and Rome are.”