The modern Olympic games

In the nineteenth century the popularity of sport grew, with England as trendsetter. There gentlemen-athletes developed the ideal of amateurism and several athletic clubs used the motto 'Mens sana in corpore sano'. In several countries there were attempts to revive the Olympic games. The most successful was that of baron Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympic games. In 1894 he organized the Paris congress at which the IOC was founded. The first games took place in 1896 in Athens.

The modern games have grown exponentially in the course of the twentieth century (see the list of all games). Ever more athletes from more countries participate, the stadia become larger and more people watch. The organisation becomes ever more expensive, but sponsoring and the sale of television rights also yield a lot of money.

The games set out to promote the peace between the nations, but, just like the ancient Olympic games, they often are the stage of political debate. The games of 1936 in Berlin, for example, were used by the nazi's for political propaganda. Between 1951 and 1978 Chinese athletes could not take part because the IOC acknowledged only Taiwan and not the People's Republic. In Munich in 1972, Israeli athletes were killed by Palestine terrorists.

© KU Leuven, 2012