I n 1892, French aristocrat, educator and athletics advocate Pierre de Coubertin gave a speech that would alter the course of international athletics. Standing before a crowd gathered at the Sorbonne to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the French Athletics Association, Coubertin outlined his idealist vision for a revival of the ancient Olympic Games. He posited that new ideas, technologies and systems (specifically the telegraph, railways and developments in scientific research) were propelling human progress and innovation to unfathomable heights – and in this vein, athletic endeavors should no longer exist primarily as military pursuits.
Citing case studies in countries such as Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom and France, Coubertin argued that instead, athleticism should evolve into something greater: a pursuit of individual excellence that benefits both the athlete and society at large. Coubertin had a vision of a world united by athletic pursuits, with an emphasis on the importance of free individualism and civilized, peaceful nationalism. Two years after giving the speech, Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee – and in 1896, the modern Olympic Games debuted in Athens.
This speech, which Coubertin wrote as a 14-page manuscript, is the manifesto for the modern Olympic Games. While a high-quality copy of the manifesto was displayed at Copenhagen City Hall during the 2009 Olympic Congress, the original manuscript has never before been exhibited publicly. Now, Sotheby's is pleased to present the original Olympic Game Manifesto as a highlight of its 18 December Books & Manuscripts auction.
It's difficult to overstate the importance of this manuscript; to this day, Coubertin's words stand as testament to the democratic, altruistic nature of modern sportsmanship and competition. With every iteration of the modern Olympic Games, countries gather to celebrate Coubertin's vision, and test the limits of human capability.
Bidding on the manuscript will take place in New York on 18 December; stay tuned for more information on the upcoming auction.