Olympism vs Olympics: Supporting Athletes for Human Rights
Tuesday, May 6, 2008 | 6:00 PM
John D. O'Bryant African American Institute
Northeastern University
Boston, MA

"The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity."

-The International Olympic Charter-

The Olympics were founded upon a humanistic vision of sport’s potential to foster peace and dignity. Throughout the history of the Games, however, nations and athletes have struggled to resolve and understand the discrepancies between Olympism as an ideal and the contextual reality of the modern Olympic Games.

Recent events surrounding the 2008 Beijing Games provide a perfect opportunity to gather and dialogue about the power of sport and to what extent the Olympics actually promote peace and dignity. Athletes and activists have taken action to leverage the phenomena of sport by speaking out against practices they see as antithetical to the Olympic movement. However, these leaders have been met with cynicism and silencing by societies and authorities.

Should the Olympics be used as a platform for protest and activism? If so, how far should these protests go and who should be the ones protesting? How can athletes who do strive for the ideals of Olympism be supported in their efforts?

Participants will have an opportunity to learn about what it is like to be an “Olympian” both on and off the field, to engage in dialogue about current events, such as the campaigns for Darfur and Tibet, and to discuss what place, if any, sport has in social movements. The event will feature a dynamic group of Olympic athletes, including Nathaniel Mills of the Olympism Project and Whitney Post of the Women’s Sports Foundation.

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