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Olympic Education at the Core of The Olympic Movement

IOC / Philippe WOODS
03 May 2018
Olympism in Action Forum
Barry Maister has been an IOC Member since 2010. Besides playing for the New Zealand hockey team at three Olympic Games, he has also served as a teacher, principal, Secretary General of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, and most recently, Chair of the IOC Olympic Education Commission.


In the run-up to the Olympism in Action Forum in Buenos Aires (5-6 October 2018), we looked at groups and individuals who, inspired by the power of sport to contribute to a better world, have used their initiative to organise projects and programmes to effect change at all levels.

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“Outside The Olympic Museum in Lausanne there is a sculpture of a twisted gun, a very powerful peace symbol. Inside the Olympic Movement there are exhilarating, wonderful stories of athletes on the Olympic stage, achieving at the highest level and telling their inspiring stories.  And the uniqueness of the Olympic Movement is that those two images are compatible.”

“To understand why they're compatible, we have to go back to Pierre de Coubertin, who founded the modern Olympic Movement on the basis of educating people through sport. He recreated the Olympic Games, and his goal was for them to do four things. One, develop the body, the will and the mind of young people. The second thing was for young people to understand the joy of effort, that exhilaration that comes when you've been the very best you've ever been able to be. The third thing was for young people to understand the value of role models and have people who are able to tell their stories and inspire others. And the fourth thing he wanted from the Games was to promote universal, basic values − excellence, friendship, respect and fair play. And those values become what we now call the Olympic values.”

“My life has revolved around the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement. The Olympic Games will always be the hook. If you ask a young athlete what they want to do in life, they want to go to the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games is special, it's changed my life in many ways. That exhilaration and specialness of being able to compete on the world stage with the best is something we should never lose.”

“But, Olympism is more than that. If we just concentrate on the Olympic Games, 99% of the world's youth won't be affected, they can never be Olympians. They haven't got the genes or the physiology or the opportunity or the money to ever compete in the Olympic Games. So we risk being somewhat elite and irrelevant if we just focus on the Olympic Games. That’s why I say the Olympic Movement is the Olympic Games plus Olympism, including those other values.”

IOC / Ian Jones

“That is why the Olympic Movement today and the IOC focuses on other programmes. Women in sport around the world, peace programmes, partnerships with the United Nations, Red Cross, development of AIDS education, drug education. I could name many more. Why does the IOC do that? Because it knows full well that the real purpose of what we're all about in this Movement is growing people, developing better people, making our communities and our societies and the world a better place through sport, which is the only tool we have.”

“My work on the IOC Olympic Education Commission is to ensure that Olympic education remains at the core purpose of the Olympic Movement in its various ways. So how do you bring Olympism to life?”

“I've been the principal of two secondary schools. What did I want to do in my secondary school? I want the young children to have a balanced development of body, will and mind. I want them to develop the joy of effort where they strive to achieve things. I want them to grow into being role models, that's why we put school leaders in place; and I want to have a set of values that permeate my school − that's Olympism in action. I'm taking exact Olympic philosophy from de Coubertin and I'm transferring it into the minds of all my students at my school.”

“To me, Olympism in action is not a complicated concept. It’s about ensuring we have physical education in school curricula around the world. Learning about Olympic values comes from engagement in sport and physical activity. Learning fairness, tolerance, and respect comes naturally from competing and playing with others, so we are working hard in our education commission to promote the idea that physical education is a lead into understanding the values of sport and hence Olympism. That's Olympism in action in a very practical way.”

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