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De Coubertin’s Olympism and the Laugh of Michel Foucault: Crisis Discourse and the Olympic Games

De Coubertin developed the sport philosophy of Olympism and the Olympic Games as a response to social and political crisis to promote peace, fair play, and the development of Christian masculinity. The purpose of this paper is to examine how crisis discourse functions as an important shaper of contemporary understandings of Olympism and how conflicting discourses have mobilized crisis discourse to produce competing ‘truths’ in which to rationalize and understand the Olympic Games. In drawing from Foucault’s work and de Certeau’s text, Heterologies: Discourse on the other, I argue that ‘crisis’ as the rationalization for Olympism and the Olympic Games has proven an unsuccessful venture for de Coubertin; as the Olympic Games have produced conservative outcomes based on a neoliberal agenda focused on elitism, professionalism, nationalism, and commercialism. This historical case raises important questions about the role of Olympism and its power to act as a catalyst for change.