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‘Olympism’ may be defined as the philosophy of the Olympic Games. This philosophy is, in essence, that the Olympic Games are contested in a timeless spirit of amateurism which values taking part above winning and pure sport above commercial gain. Thus, the Games mitigate aggressive nationalism and instead promote peace and international harmony. This, as the merest scrutiny of the history and contemporary practice of the Games reveals, is a myth. Indeed, it could be argued that no sports competition in human history has entailed so many myths as the Olympic Games.

The myth of the Olympics as a haven of international goodwill derives, in the first instance, from the expressed philosophy of the French nobleman Baron Pierre de Coubertin (1863–1937), the chief instigator of the ...

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