Journal of Olympic History – Vol. 25/No. 1 – 2017

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Our Journal to mark the 25th anniversary of ISOH features the story of two strong women. The first, Barbara Rotraut Pleyer, went into history as the “Peace Angel”. Her failed attempt to combine the opening of the 1952 Games with an appeal for peace, prompted the IOC to explicitly forbid any form of demonstration or propaganda within Olympic sites. Her story remained largely unknown until now but Pleyer’s life as a “peace worker” began in Helsinki.

Our second strong woman made headlines 50 years later. Swedish heptathlete Carolina Klüft was the world’s best from 2002 to 2007. Leif Yttergren and John Hellström examine the change to her media profile. Klüft began as carefree as “Pippi Longstocking”. Enjoyment was more important than victory. But by at the end of her career her serious side had come to the fore. With the greater interest in her personality there was also a more critical scrutiny.

Even 80 years on, the 1936 Games still offer fascinating themes for discussion. This time Elizabeth Hanley analyses the role of dance in the service of Nazi propaganda. Stars such Mary Wigman, Gret Palucca and Harald Kreutzberg performed on the opening day in the festival of “Olympic Youth”, which ended in the glorification of “heroic death”. What a contrast to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the humanistic message of the “Ode to Joy”, with which the evening ended. The use of this music fulfilled a dearly-held wish for Pierre de Coubertin as Jeffrey Segrave explains.

It has long been established that the victors in the ancient Games were seldom amateurs. The Greek cities granted them privileges, but also played a role in fostering talents. Until now this aspect has not been examined. Professor Christian Mann reveals the motivation and financial backing for this practice.

Don Macgregor, himself an Olympic marathoner, spotlights an earlier era in his sport. His article on the “Fantastic Four” is the story of British marathoners Ferris, Harper, Robertson and Wright. The quartet enjoyed considerable success in the twenties and thirties. Ferris and Harper both came home with medals, Wright and Robertson achieved top ten finishes. The author is well qualified for this task, he finished seventh in the 1972 race.

Environmental issues are a central part of the Olympic Movement but the first “Smoke-free Games” were only declared 25 years ago. Alberto Aragón-Perez details a process which began hesitantly only at the start of the 1980s and articulated itself by protests from individual environmentalists. Today it is at the very core of the Olympic Movement. Without sustainability the Games have no future.

To prove that a sport took place is simple, provided that there is access to results, documents and pictures. There is still it seems, uncertainty amongst some over the early football tournaments. In particular there is confusion between the Athens Games of 1896 and 1906. This has prompted Bill Mallon and me to examine the subject again to set the record straight.

– Volker Kluge, Editor

Members of ISOH may view the digital version of this issue by clicking here.

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