The Fascinating and Controversial History of the Modern Olympics

TLDR The modern Olympics have a rich history, with origins in ancient traditions and festivals. From shambolic amateurism to the influence of fascist ideals, the Olympics have been marked by gory and fascinating stories throughout the years.

Timestamped Summary

00:00 The episode discusses the history of the modern Olympics, including the enthusiasm and patriotism it generates, as well as the gory and fascinating stories surrounding its beginnings.
05:32 The origins of the modern Olympics can be traced back to ancient traditions and festivals, such as the Cotswold Olympics and the Olympic Games held in Athens in 1859, which included various sports and events like Dwyl flonking and the climbing of a greasy pole.
10:48 The true birthplace of the Olympic movement is the Shropshire market town of Muchwenlock, where the Wenlock Games were held and which inspired Baron de Coubertin to create the modern Olympics.
15:12 Baron de Coubertin's call for the revival of the Olympics was driven by his internationalist ideals and the belief that it would promote peace, despite the modern Olympics having little in common with the ancient Olympics.
19:47 The early Olympics in Athens were marked by amateurism and enthusiasm, with events like the marathon and swimming taking place in unconventional locations, but it was the Paris Olympics that exemplified a sense of shambolic amateurism, as it was piggybacking onto the world exhibition and many attendees were unaware that the Olympics were even happening.
24:28 The Paris Olympics featured a Dutch rowing team that had to recruit a 10-year-old French boy as their cox, making him the only anonymous gold medal-winning Olympian, and the marathon in St. Louis in 1984 was marked by practical jokes, dehydration experiments, and unlikely contenders.
29:31 The St. Louis Olympics featured human zoos and an attempt to measure the athletic capacity of people seen as inferior, with Len Tao as a notable participant in the marathon who had to run an extra mile to escape a dog attack, while the London Olympics in 1908 saw Dorando Pietri collapse multiple times at the finish line and get disqualified, but receive support and a reward from Queen Alexandra and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
34:12 The host discusses how the film "Chariots of Fire" was inspired by the story of the 1924 Olympics, particularly the achievements of British athletes Harold Abraham's and Eric Liddle, and mentions that his great uncle competed in the Olympics in the 1930s.
38:55 The 1936 Olympics in Berlin, organized by the Nazis, created the template for all subsequent modern Olympics and emphasized a fascist ideal of physical beauty and the connection between Germany and ancient Greece.
43:32 The 1936 Berlin Olympics created a template for using the games to delude oneself about the nature of the host nation, with stories like Hitler refusing to shake hands with Jesse Owens perpetuating a false narrative, while the tragic fate of a Jewish officer in charge of the Olympic village highlights the lasting impact of the games.
Categories: History

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