Header Olympism


Olympism in the tense truce between two wars (1920 - 1940)

presentation of Olympism


At the end of World War I, many things changed on earth. Faith in the indefinite progress of mankind was called into question and the bright future that had been envisaged for much of the 19th century was called into question. Criticism of the foundations of the received order became widespread, and the period after 1918 was characterised by intense living in the present, without turning to a past that was declared guilty and without looking to a future that no longer looked so rosy.

One of the fruits of human optimism was the Olympic movement, a declaration of hope for individual and collective improvement through sport and physical health. Understood in a completely altruistic way, it sought internationalism and selfless partnership as a means of bringing nations together. This was the spirit behind the efforts of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who in 1892 succeeded in initiating the restoration of the Olympic Games.

In their first editions, the Olympics sought to establish a system of meeting characterised by amateurism and the complementarity of sporting practices. Despite the difficulties, the Athens 1896, Paris 1900, St. Louis 1904, London 1908 and Stockholm 1912 events consolidated a sporting model in which each nation sought a triumph that would reinforce its collective identity.

The Great War brought to the fore the rise of nationalism and, at its end, the fear of its revival. The misgivings and tensions of a turbulent time, marked by economic crises and the painful memory of the war and its destructive capacity, marked Olympic Games that sought to maintain harmony and coexistence between nations. Antwerp 1920, Paris 1924, Amsterdam 1928, Los Angeles 1932 and Berlin 1936 sought to heal the wounds of the war, despite the awareness of the unrest and agitation that phenomena such as the Russian Revolution of 1917, Italian fascism from 1922, or Nazism from 1933, brought to a Europe in the process of recovery and full of contradictions, hesitant between the antagonistic paths that lay ahead and with Olympism weathering a painful storm.

This exhibition, made up primarily of materials from the Library Services General and above all from the file General of the University of Navarra, with the collection of Pedro J. Matheu, a Salvadorian diplomat who was a member of the IOC during these interwar years. Matheu, a Salvadoran diplomat who was a member of the IOC during these interwar years, attempts to reflect the intense activity of an Olympic movement that sought points of meeting around sport, and which continued to think about sporting events even in spite of the war, as shown by the materials relating to the 1940 Summer Olympics in Helsinki and the Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which were only suspended when the Second World War was already underway.

Francisco Javier Caspistegui