POPE Francis has met a large delegation of Olympic leaders, and used the occasion to issue a warning over the commercialization of athletes.
Francis told several hundred members of the European Olympic Committees that when sport “is considered only in economic terms and consequently for victory at every cost … it risks reducing athletes to mere trading material from whom profits are extracted.”
The pope added that “sport is harmony but if money and success prevail as the aim this harmony crumbles.”
Religion actually led to the banning of the Olympics for over 1500 years, In AD 393, the Christian emperor Theodosius banned the Games, along with other Greek and Roman festivals, for being too pagan, violent and gory. His successor, Theodosius II, went a step further in 426, ordering his army to demolish Olympia’s stadium.
It would be 1,500 years later before Baron Pierre de Coubertin would found the modern Olympics.
In his memoirs, de Coubertin wrote that sports were “a religion with its church, dogmas, service… but above all, a religious feeling.” Two years before his death, in a 1935 radio address, he asserted that “the first essential characteristic of ancient and of modern Olympism alike is that of being a religion.”
De Coubertin didn’t set out to create a new religion in the traditional sense. But he understood the power of religious rituals, symbols, rites and ceremonies, and incorporated them into the modern Olympic movement. He even included a hymn. In its original version, the first verse is a paean to the “immortal spirit of antiquity, father of the true, beautiful and good.”