University Sport in Context of Olympic Ideas of Pierre de Coubertin

University Sport in Context of Olympic Ideas of Pierre de Coubertin


V.I. Mikhalev, professor, Dr.Hab.
N.V. Rekutina, associate professor, Ph.D.
Siberian State University of Physical Culture and Sports, Omsk

Key words: competitiveness, Olympic sport, university sport, sports movement, essence of sport, transformations of sports movement, Olympic ideas of Pierre de Coubertin.

The university sport phenomenon we are interested in the context of the modern Olympic culture is subject to detailed interpretation, which, in its turn, is the basis for projective activity in the area of practice of modern sport.

The purpose of the present study was to determine the genetic basis of university sport and describe its development in the context of ideas of Pierre de Coubertin and the social and cultural transformations of sport as a cultural phenomenon.

In compliance with the purpose of the study texts of documents, facts and research results related to the philosophical, historical and practical aspects of university sports were analyzed.

Сompetitiveness has been present in human culture since ancient times, underlying ritual actions, mythological holidays and initiations. Evolution of competitiveness can be considered within evolution of human consciousness. But in the context of mythological and religious consciousness, the meaning, moral and psychological content and the form of competitiveness are defined by mythological and religious content. In the history of human competitiveness there can be distinguished some forms of competitiveness that have lost its sacred meaning in certain periods of formation of culture due to the origin of the realistic outlook. In the course of these changes some types of competitive practices remained in culture in the form of strong tradition consonant with the cultural content, while others survived without any constructive functions in relation to culture. The latter include, for example, competition of athletes at the Olympic Games during the last centuries of antiquity and gladiator fights which remained in this period in the form of a show that had lost any connection with the religious tradition.

As the main crucial and sociologically significant changes that characterize modern sport in comparison with archaic, closed traditional communities with their ritual and cult meaning we can point out the following:

- Sport is becoming public; it is accessible as an organized form of motor activity as well as a show;

- In the context of institutionalization and professionalization of competitive practices we are witnessing the formation of different models of sport;

- Sport is becoming a mechanism of social mobility;

- Sport is becoming versatile, technical, rational, its space now involves conditional but universal and compulsory ways of achievement of competitive practices and their comparisons.

In the context of the modern culture sport should be considered as a phenomenon of XI-XX centuries. As a new cultural phenomenon the formation of sport has been registered in European languages ​​between 1820 and 1840: that is when the words "sport" and "athlete” were integrated into the public lexicon and printing. It is common knowledge , that the modern and mass sport originates from the United Kingdom, traditional "national" and "local" games and closed aristocratic competitions, universalized to the degree of competitions of regional and professional clubs and communities, should be considered as the genetic basis of sport. This explains the prevalence and prestige of such sports as rugby, rowing, boxing, football, tennis, horse racing.

The first works on the social history and sociology of sport are dated by the periods of formation of the mass society in Europe and the development of mass movements. In different forms these studies express a sharp reaction of intellectual elites to the phenomenon of massivization of the culture. Criticism of the contemporary sports spirit had been expressed by Ortega y Gasset, J. Huizenga et al. (1910, 1930). In the 1950s-1960s as a part of the emerging fields of "mass society" research in cultural and empirical-sociological works of Plessner, Zh. Dumazedier and E. Morin such criticism had also increased substantially.

The development of mass sports is considered by contemporary sociologists and anthropologists in connection with the formation of juvenile ideology in Europe, the formation of youth movements and expansion, structuring, institutionalization of leisure activities, as well as with the tourism industry. Among the initial forms of support and distribution of mass sports the significant place is taken by youth movements and unions. Later on sport becomes institutionalized, connecting with the processes of formation of the broader collective identities - large regions and nations. For many years the development of sport has been defined by an outstanding project of Pierre de Coubertin in which an attempt of certain sacralization of sport was made, based on the principles of humanism and high spirituality. The harmony of human development as a basic phenomenon was presented in the concept of the Olympic sports developed by Pierre de Coubertin. The main provision of the Olympic Charter expresses this concept as follows: "Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind" [8].

Understanding the complexity and contradictoriness of the competition, which is a unity of cooperation and rivalry, Pierre de Coubertin attempted to instill the principle of fair play with repudiation and authority of religious norms, referring to the tradition of agonistic culture of ancient Greece. In the context of socio-cultural conditions of the modern era the sacredness of competition could only be a vivid metaphor. While the main idea and rituals of the Olympics proved to be very effective and in tune with the times.

While recounting on the outcome of the meeting in 1904 in London, Pierre de Coubertin noticed that he would want to see the participation of universities of Cambridge, Oxford and the College of Rugby which the founder of the Olympic movement would call "Mecca of sports pedagogics." Coubertin expresses his disappointment by the fact that his English colleagues did not share his desire to link the university world with the Olympic revival, he notes that universities in America had a decisive impact on the world of sports. Pierre de Coubertin expresses his reproach to the university community, saying that in many areas (Olympic movement is one of them) in the period between 1890 - 1930 it had been distancing itself from the public interests. When with great delay students came to sport, they wanted to have one of their own Special Olympics. Initially, Pierre de Coubertin was against this project. Among the rescue measures of the Olympic Games he names the abolition of all the world's games, duplicating the Olympics and bearing ethnic, political and religious character. [13]

The development of modern sport is characterized by social differentiation, i.e. by the forms of sport, which differ with their own understanding of what sport is, their own ideologies, forms of engaging in and organization of sports activities, various stimulating nature of sports for different groups of individuals. Sport is not a uniform homogeneous structure and is divided into various model of sport.

Haynemann. K singles out the following "sports model":

A model, which forms its meaning and morality on the basis of concepts and norms such as joy, pleasure, collaboration, personal world, etc. and eliminates the moments associated with the achievements and competitions. This model depicts sport as a "counterworld" in relation to the values, standards and living conditions of everyday reality, especially to the industrialized labor world (expressive sports model);

A sports model, emphasizing the values ​​and norms such as competition, achievement, winning or losing (which, therefore, have an effect on the everyday reality). This model reflects the traditional understanding of sport in relation to the identity (competitive sports model);

A sports model that understands sport as a spectacular event and a professional commercial production, it manifests itself in its pure form, for example, in such projects as "Space in New York" and other similar sports enterprises used for achieving commercial success (commercial sports model);

A sports model, which is characterized by understanding of sport in its instrumental form, where the meaning and structure of sport especially in its socio-emotional functions, functions of socialization, functions of social integration, political function and biological functions - all the functions that sport can perform (functionalistic sports model) [12].

Thus, sport is characterized by its various models developing and occurring partly in competition with each other. Such increasing social differentiation to different models of sport does not remain without consequences for the sport itself; various models have greater or lesser appeal to the different groups of individuals.

Currently, the sport practice includes a rather broad range of models of sports (extreme sports, adaptive sports, corporate sport, etc.). At the same time singling these models out and giving them a proper description remains an actual problem.

Sport as a particular social practice, having absorbed the energy of the beyond, has actualized the idea of ​​superhuman in elite sport, which is now becoming a subject of philosophical reflection. The idea of overcoming the limit that goes back to the ancient archetype of Olympic Champions, has always been considered by Pierre de Coubertin as one of the fundamental ideas of the revival of the Olympic Games.

He said: "... [sport] needs the freedom of overcoming the limits. This is the essence of sport, its purpose and the main mystery of its moral significance ... Risk for the sake of risk, without any practical need - this is exactly the way our body rises above its animal nature "[13, p.5]

The level of sports achievements in sport of the beginning of the XXI century provided by modern scientific and technological achievements has gotten closer to its apex, and in order to show the outstanding results, one needs to use enormous strength and abilities.

Scientists studying the problem of elite sport, single out a category of people, different not only by the significantly better results of competitive activity, but also by the prominent features of their personal development [1,2].

The problem of overcoming modern boundaries of sports results and improving human capabilities has not only a natural biological and medical, but also humanistic and moral aspects. Identification and preservation of basic qualities of a human constructing his identity has never been more important than it is now. Sport is an activity centered on a human being.  In order to preserve the integrity of a man in the modern elite sport, particularly in Olympic sport, it is necessary to solve the problems of pharmacology and genetic modification in sport, with a spread of which the essence of humanity as a condition of personal self-identity is jeopardized. University sports as a relatively independent branch of modern sports movement was founded in the twenties of XX century. A landmark event for this phenomenon was the World Student Games held in Paris in May 1923 by Jean Petitjean. The organizer of the sports festival intended to name it "University Olympic Games", but Pierre de Coubertin advised to give the games a different name: "Universiade". The name means "universality", "unity", "university" and is consonant to the word Olympics.

Considering the historical context of the development of university sports, one can trace the roots of this phenomenon from the sports pedagogy of Thomas Arnold and the formation of sport in schools in England. Many modern kinds of sports were originated in the space of University sports - basketball, volleyball, rugby. The process of formation of the rules and institutional foundations of football had been carried out within the education institutions in England.

University sport had been developing under the auspices of the International Confederation of students formed in 1924 in Warsaw. In 1959 the World Universiade was held in Turin and since 1960 the World Winter Olympics started to be held. Analyzing the main trends in the development of the Olympic and University sport, it should be noted that certain empirical facts such as doping, commercialization, aggression and other negative trends in a greater degree are inherent in Olympic sport, while University sport is characterized by a softer model of development. The significant difference between the Olympic and the University sports lies in the attitude towards athletic performance. Considering the values ​​of sport, the researchers note the exceptional value of sports results. G.D. Gorbunov says: "Elite sport is a land of a totally different life. It is akin to religion with its temples, hymns, clothing, rituals, fasts, symbols, rules, etc. They worship here athletic performance ... Upon reaching success, an athlete, a coach see, feel themselves in the center of the events taking place around them "[5, p.16]

Many of the features listed by the author are typical to University sport, however, in his space it is not about reaching the maximum capabilities of a human-athlete. In University sport athletes strive to surpass the result limited by their individual level of fitness and to realize their capabilities, while we are not talking here about the limits of human capabilities. University sport for a certain group of the most talented athletes is a form of transition to elite sport.

Modern transformation of sport, present in the early XXI century, affects both Olympic and University sports, their development is greatly influenced by extreme sports. The development and assimilation of the new culture of existence in a changing social reality is carried out as part of a developing model of extreme sports. Extreme Sports, formed mainly among young people, attracted by the freedom of choosing a strategy where the only condition is a voluntary and conscious overcoming of all sorts of dangers. People develop skills to react more adequately, learn to rationally mobilize their reserve capacities, fear becomes less prominent and adaptation to the situation takes place. All this leads to increased self-confidence, building up of a positive experience, to a feeling of satisfaction at task accomplishment [1].

The analysis of the dynamics of the Olympic and the University sports gives reason to conclude that sports model designed by Pierre de Coubertin, under the condition of today’s socio-cultural transformations to a greater extent can be implemented in the area of University sport.

At the same time there is now a significant differentiation and complication of the practice of University sport, in its development there are to be pointed out the sophisticated forms of transition from mass sport to the elite one.

Olympic and University sports in their development process and functioning in the modern world are being transformed due to the sociocultural changes. Models of Olympic and University sports have their own distinctive characteristics. Considering the modern model of University Sports, it should be noted that the problem of doping, genetic modification and raising the limit of human capabilities in university sports are expressed in a much lesser degree. University sport space is determined primarily by the peculiarities of students as a social group.

Acceleration of the pace of modern life, increased mental stress due to the necessity of daily processing of rapidly changing information, immersion in learning activities lead to a shortage of free time. Add to this an intense introduction of automated and computerized technology in the educational process. Such living conditions of students require compensatory actions aimed at the physical and mental condition of the person. Sports activities may certainly be considered as such means.

At the same time modern University sport unites in its area subjects of sports activities which are far from homogeneous in their aspirations and interests. A special group of athletes is formed by the students participating in the World Universiades and students who are members of their countries’ national teams. For this group University sport is a transitional form to Olympic sport.

Olympic and University sports are organically introduced in the common social environment, which suggests an active interaction with all phenomena, processes and trends specific for society as a whole.

Elk Franke notes in his work "Modern sport - religion of the turn of centuries?" that media broadcasting promises participation in live sport events, creates myths and semantic preconditions for uniting people in the community of "followers of sport" via special reconstructing language [14]. At the moment it is very important that the followers of Olympic and university sports are united in respect to humanistic values and noble meanings inherent in sport.


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