Sport ›(Peace)‹ War

In his presentation at the International Symposium for Olympic Research, entitled "The Birth of the Modern Olympic Truce," Naofumi Masumoto discusses in chronological fashion the revival of certain peaceful traditions retrieved from the ancient Olympic Games. One passage stood out for me, which he quoted from The Official Report of the Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad:

The first runner, Corporal Dimitrelis of the Greek Army, stepped forward, clad in uniform with his rifle in hand. Laying down his arms and taking off his uniform, he appeared clad as an athlete and thus, having symbolized the tradition that war ceased during the period of the ancient Games, he lit his torch and set off on the first stage of the relay.

So as early as 1948 in the modern era there is the idea that sport (and peace) begins where war ends. This struck me greatly, as it resonated with my concept for a Peace Relay, in which the "sound of the starting gun symbolizes the violence that exists in the world, but also signifies the beginning of the Peace Relay and its embodied efforts to spread an idea." Perhaps one difference between the two is that the Olympic Torch relay, rooted in classical metaphysics, has an end point at which peace is achieved through international sporting competition, while my proposal endlessly defers the end point of the run — if it is peace that one seeks, one must continually be in its pursuit.

So what happened? How did this important symbolic moment in the genealogy of the modern Olympic Truce yield to the neocolonialism of the 2008 Olympic Torch Relay? Rather than sport (and peace) beginning where war ends, is it possible that sport and war — in their modern, binary incarnation — are in fact mutually reinforcing institutions, leaving peace out of the equation entirely?


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