Nikh vs nike: can ancient olympic ideals survive modern olympic realities?

Por: Heather Reid.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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To the ancients, an Olympic victory was imagined as a visit from the winged goddess Nike, who swooped down from Olympus to briefly bless the mortal athlete with a divine crown of sacred olive. To us moderns, Olympic victory is more likely to be associated with Nike, the multi-national mega-company, which swoops down from Wall Street to briefly bless the athlete with a fat paycheck and temporary status as a corporate shill.

Even though ancient Olympic reality frequently failed its own ideals, the modern Olympic movement should still be evaluated according to the classically inspired "Fundamental Principles" declared in its Olympic Charter. The IOC is an idealist organization, and like any philosophical idealist, it must labor to shape reality according to the ideals it believes to be "universal and permanent."

This paper will argue that ancient Olympic ideals, such as humanism, fairness, and peace, can and must be preserved in the modern Olympic movement. Although our contemporary sport culture is dominated by instrumentalist, and especially commercialist, philosophies, the Olympic movement can and should remain a beacon of idealism amid the headlong pursuit of worldly wealth and power.

In fact, I believe, that this was also the role of the ancient Olympic festival: to promote the cause of higher ideals in a cynical and combative world. Contrasting evidence from antiquity with modern-day examples I will show that the Hellenic Nike can still overpower her modern corporate namesake. Finally, I will make suggestions on how to bolster Nike’s idealistic power in future Olympic Games.

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