Reference : Modern Pentathlon and World War I – When Athletes and Soldiers Meet to Practise Marti...
Scientific journals : Article
Arts & humanities : History
Modern Pentathlon and World War I – When Athletes and Soldiers Meet to Practise Martial Manliness
Heck, Sandra mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Education, Culture, Cognition and Society (ECCS) >]
International Journal of the History of Sport
[en] manliness ; World War I ; Coubertin ; modern pentathlon ; soldiers ; martial ; Olympic Games
[en] In the nationalistic atmosphere of the early 20th Century, a nurturing medium for sports practising martial manliness abounded throughout Europe. This framework supported the invention of a new multi-disciplinary sport, aided by Baron Pierre de Coubertin himself: Modern Pentathlon. Though the idea of a new form of pentathlon was already born in 1894, it took thirty years, until Paris 1924 to establish Modern Pentathlon within the Olympic Games.
This study is concerned with the reasons for that delay. It shall be investigated whether the active military preparations around World War I and the contemporary image of masculinity had a decisive influence on the early history of Modern Pentathlon.
By including historical documents of the IOC archives in Lausanne/Switzerland, the research office for military history in Potsdam/Germany and the LA84 Foundation in Los Angeles/USA as well as literature on gender, military sport and Olympic history this study offers an entirely new view on the early history of a sport which was born in an atmosphere of glorifying manliness and apparent militarism.
The history of Modern Pentathlon thereby provides a particular appropriate area for the analysis of connections between sport, militarism and masculinity. It was not by chance that the implementation of a combined sport, which included besides swimming and running the three cavalry disciplines of shooting, fencing and horse-riding, arose in a pre-war context. Though in 1912 the Great War had not yet begun, the awareness for an upcoming battle was rising and led to a higher attention to Coubertin’s almost forgotten assumption of a new sport. In 1924 the advantages were finally admitted on two sides: the army recruited modern pentathletes as future military officers; the sports community appointed skilled officers as successful competitors. Thus, the lobby for an Olympic recognition of Modern Pentathlon was found.

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