Robert Colls, Professor of Cultural History at De Montfort University, gave a really clear talk on the origins of the modern Olympics. He showed how, despite their being founded by a Frenchman, his inspiration was largely from England. Shocked by France’s defeat by the Prussians (i.e. Germany) in 1871, Baron de Coubertin wanted to build the strength and manhood of the French youth. After reading Tom Brown’s Schooldays and visiting English public schools like Rugby, where sport was seen as an essential part of a character-building curriculum, he developed the idea of making the Olympics, which had been revived in Greece as part of that young nation’s quest for identity, truly international and amateur. He’d be surprised now by what the Olympic movement has become, but not too disappointed!
Robert Colls: England and the Olympics – the History