A Well Balanced Life Based on 'The Joy of Effort': Olympic Hype or a Meaningful Ideal?

Sport, Ethics and Philosophy 6 (2):155-165 (2012)
Abstract
A key goal in the Olympic value system of Olympism is the all-round cultivation of the individual. According to its so-called ?fundamental principles?, Olympism is a ?philosophy of life? with ideals of ?exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will, and mind? and creating ?a way of life based on the joy of effort?. These goals are to be reached by blending sport with culture and education. Olympism is often criticised for idealism and lack of impact in real life. At the same time Olympic ideals are intuitively appealing and have rhetorical force. The Olympic athlete stands at the very centre of the ideology. This paper examines the possibility of critical examination of Olympic ideals in terms of three different understandings of the athlete. A dualist understanding sees the athlete as divided between body and mind and with the body as a means towards the cultivation of the mind. Within this understanding Olympic ideals make little sense. A phenomenological approach attempts to overcome a dualist scheme with an understanding of the athlete as ?embodied intentionality?. This seems fertile in an examination of Olympic ideals but can be criticised for lack of contextual sensitivity. A third perspective points towards the athlete as a social construction who can be fully understood only by examining the more extensive socio-cultural context of which the athlete is a part. The contextual understanding adds critical force to Olympic analyses but seems to lack conceptual tools to examine the vision of athletes as responsible moral agents. In conclusion the complementary functions of the three perspectives are emphasised for a proper study of Olympic ideals
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