Olympism and ontological structures of understanding


  • Susannah Stevens New Zealand Centre for Olympic Studies, University of Canterbury (New Zealand)


Olympism, Pierre de Coubertin, Embodiment, Human flourishing, Ontology, Hermeneutics


Across the academy, Olympism is scrutinized in paradigmatic ways that centre on its epistemological decree. This critique enables necessary conversation on the appropriateness of Olympism in contemporary times, the definitions of Olympism, Olympism praxis, and Olympic education and its pedagogies. This arguably, positions Olympism as one of the most controversial and debated topics within the human movement field. This paper contends, that by concentrating comprehensively on the epistemology of Olympism, this has subsequently led to a narrow interpretation of the ideology that Pierre de Coubertin embodied. Accordingly, Olympism is perceived as a set of prescribed ideals that seek to morally shape sportspeople; then correspondingly critiqued for their ability, inability or appropriateness in doing so. Consequently, these factors shape how Olympism is interpreted or understood today in human movement, marginalising additional meanings. This paper suggests that a hermeneutical shift from an epistemological analysis to an exploration of ontological structures of understanding, could allow for alternative meanings of Olympism. For example, acknowledging how Olympism was embodied by Pierre de Coubertin and shaped by the space, time and context in which he lived could allow for a deeper understanding of how and why he valued it. Likewise, how you or I value and interpret Olympism, based on our ontological structures of understanding, and the space and time in which we live.

Author Biography

Susannah Stevens, New Zealand Centre for Olympic Studies, University of Canterbury (New Zealand)

Susannah Stevens (Susie) has just submitted her PhD and is a contract tutor at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, Aotearoa New Zealand. She is the lead national subject advisor for Physical Education New Zealand (PENZ) and is a member of the New Zealand Centre for Olympic Studies. Susie received an international scholar award from the IOA for her paper Education and the Olympic Movement and was awarded first class honours for her Master of Education thesis Olympism practised through sport: An insight from youth.






Emerging Scholars