Olympic education: Reports of a Brazilian reality

If the upcoming Rio Games open an opportunity for Olympic education, this opportunity is not sufficiently exploited, write PhD students Carlos Rey Perez, Maria Alice Zimmermann and Natalia Kohatsu Quintilio and Juliana Rodrigues Marconi. There is no reason to expect that the Olympics will leave any long-term effect in the curriculum of the schools, they find.

By Carlos Rey Perez, Maria Alice Zimmermann, Natalia Kohatsu Quintilio and Juliana Rodrigues Marconi

Excerpt of article from ICSSPE’s Bulletin no. 70/2016 – see further reference at the bottom of the page. 

As Brazil will host the next edition of the Summer Olympic Games, the theme Olympic Education is in the center of attention both in school and in institutional sports programs. It would be expected that children and young people should understand and appropriate themselves using it as the main transversal theme for education. Along the last years, some pedagogic projects have promoted the discussion on the Olympism in Brazil, looking for a way to form a generation of key players in the Olympic Movement, equipping them with knowledge and concepts, and conducting them towards a reflection about the values. This article has the purpose to describe and analyze some interventions in the Olympic Education in Brazil. It is noted that such Olympic Education programs which are developed in the country contemplate the demands created by the sponsors of the Olympic Games, but there is no continuity in its application, thus making it a merely momentary intervention. But only few Olympic education programs surpass the limits of the event in Brazil, really seeking to become a tooling aiming the human development.

The Olympic Games, the public facet of the Olympism, represent one of the most visible activities of the sportive background, and it is the major event in the planet both due to its social cultural value and to its artistic representation. In the conception of the Olympism, which is a philosophy of life based on the balance between the body, spirit and mind, Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the Modern Olympic Games believed that the approach of the sportive manifestations with a heroic imaginary would push the insertion of the sports as a pedagogic method.

Sports as the common thread in interpersonal relationships may, in a certain way to expose significant values and behaviors for a certain social group, thus strengthening a cultural and personal identity. So, the sport provides an educative potential context, and it can be used as an instrument for ethical attitudes and the values required for the social and individual life.

The Olympism, as a philosophy of life, whenever inserted into the school context generates what some authors denominate the Olympic Education that has arisen from the will to use sports as a mean to promote and perpetuate values such as peace, friendship and progress. For Müller (2004), the Olympic Education is characterized by: a harmonic development of the human being, the search for perfection, sportive activity linked to ethical principles, concepts of peace and goodwill between nations and emancipation into and through the sports.

For Müller (2004), the harmonic and integral development of the human being points out that the education is not concentrated only in the mind and in intellect, but in the body as well. Children and young people need to be more aware that the sports must be part of them as human beings. The author considers that the idea of the human perfection starts from the principle that every human being must want his best, searching for excellence, and especially in the Olympic Games, there is a record of the supreme human accomplishment. Sports promote an individual effort and an incentive to the peers, generating a competition that must be healthy. Such effort should be reflected in other fields, and not only in school or sports, and not allowing that we would feel satisfied with average performances and past achievements; but such a search must be guided by legitimate means in the sports or in the everyday life, and always respecting the individual development.

The commitment to the ethical principles is tied to the fair play concept or the French ter esprit chevaleresque, which means chivalry. Sports must be exerted based on a fair competition, and such principle must be extended to other aspects of the day-to-day life, based on the assumption that there are rules which must be followed; but such concept must be independent of supervision, that is, it must be a voluntary commitment.

The idea of peace and harmony between nations lays side by side to the fair play, one of the main Olympic values, as it conveys the search for an understanding of the features of several cultures, the familiarization of other forms to play, and of the culture of the host country of the Olympic Games, added to the promotion of global contacts. As the Olympic Games is a large meeting between the nations, Müller (2004) mentions them as “the largest of every global pacific meetings” (p. 13) and the idea of Coubertin about education for peace, having the Olympism as its core axis, has become these days very real.

To be emancipated in and through the sports raises issues such as tolerance, acceptance of several forms of the physical education and sports, and the development into the responsibility notion in and through the sports.

There are several interpretations of the Olympic Education in the worldwide scenario, as for instance the ones presented by Gessman (1992), Kidd (1985)), Gruepe (1996), Müller (2004), Rubio, Meira, & Zimmermann, (2013), among others which describe the contents, activities and methods planned in their contexts, and thus not meant to be deemed universal. From such ideas, Binder (2005) advocates that every host city of the Olympic Games must plan an initiative to the Olympic Education. It can be highlighted that the “Olympic Education” term forecasts the formation of human beings endowed of knowledge and values which will guide their conduct instead of only to form an athlete. The legacy of the Olympic Education, more than acting as a bridge between the achievement of the athletes and the dream of the children is to enable the access to the content of values able to promote the Olympism.

Futada (2007) points out that there is no way to say that every formal or not-formal physical education program contemplates the aims contained in the Olympic Education. Due to personal, collective, institutional, physical, financial, and political influences, among others, those programs end up being an ideological pillar or a theoretical-practical complement in the establishment and development of the proposed content. It should be noted that the Olympic Education is one of the pillars of the Olympism that represents an ideological universe, but this does not limit its appropriation in different contexts, but “as any educational proposal, it must be reviewed according to its concepts, values and meanings towards a practice inherent to the educative process for very individual involved” (p. 26). For the author, at the same time that the Olympic Education can be seen as a vague proposition, as it is based on universal human values suppositions, such multiculturalism and interrelationship with different topics allow to use it as a powerful intervention instrument.

 Naul (2008) proposes some topics on the Olympic Education:

  • An approaching guided to the information with the purpose to present information and knowledge related to the history and symbols composing the Former and Modern Olympic Games;
  • A practical approaching emphasizing the participation in competitions and in Olympic festivals in schools developing the co-operation, fair play and multiculturalism;
  • Individual development approaching through the effort, with the core idea that every personal and social development results from the overcoming and by the effort through competition;
  • An approaching oriented for life which guides and motivates people by means of the Olympism, integrating them into the sports and physical activities.

According to Binder (2002), the following themes must be present in Olympic Education programs:

  • Encompassing the body, mind and spirit – fostering the participation both of children and young people in physical and sportive activities, as well as developing healthy habits and hygiene, and thus consequently improving their athletic performance;
  • Fair play – through the sportive ethic, to develop the knowledge, understanding and respect;
  • Excellence – looking for his best, developing the self-confidence and overcoming his limits, as well as self-respect;
  • History of the Olympic Games – knowledge of the symbols, ceremonies, competitions and messages which give significance both to the Former and Modern Olympic Games, as a celebration for the social, cultural and sportive reference;
  • Multiculturalism – respect and valorization of the difference whether in terms of personal, cultural, social, religious and sportive skills.


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