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The Rise of Olympism

Episode 1 of 30

15 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 30 January 2012

CLARE BALDING charts how Britain has shaped sport and sport has shaped the British.Apart from the English language itself, the invention of modern sport has been our major cultural legacy to the rest of the world.In this thirty part narrative history series with the help of the academic team from the International Centre for Sport History and Culture at De Montfort University, Clare looks at the unique and vital role sport has played, and continues to play, in our national life. As we gear up for the 2012 games, in this first programme she looks at the birth of the modern olympics movement. While it was inspired by the Greeks and revived by the French nobleman, Pierre de Coubertin, his motivation came from a provincial English public school. It was while visiting Rugby and contemplating the work of its visionary headmaster, Thomas Arnold, that de Coubertin came to the conclusion that inferior physical fitness in young Frenchmen had played a part in their defeat by the Germans in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. If they played more sport at school, he thought, the outcome might have been different. With Richard Holt and Tony Collins, Professors at the International Centre for Sport History and Culture at De Montfort University, Clare discusses what lessons can be drawn from the games since 1896, in order to achieve success when they return to us this year.
The reader is Stuart McLoughlin.
Producer: Lucy Lunt.

  • The first modern Olympic Games

    The first modern Olympic Games

    A painting shows Spyridon Louis of Greece winning the first Olympic marathon in Athens in 1896.

  • Wyndham Halswelle wins 400 metres final

    Wyndham Halswelle wins 400 metres final

    British athlete Wyndham Halswelle crosses the finishing line of the re-run Olympic 400 metres final at White City in London in 1908. Halswelle was the sole participant of the race after the original winner, John Carpenter, was disqualified and his American team mates refused to take part.


Lucy Lunt
Sara Conkey
Garth Brameld


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