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Andre Suchet, Dominique Jorand & John Tuppen, "The History and Geography of a Forgotten Olympic Movement: The Spring Games.

Andre Suchet, Dominique Jorand & John Tuppen, "The History and Geography of a Forgotten Olympic Movement: The Spring Games," Sport in History 30, no. 4 (2010), 570-587.

In a study of a mostly unexplored episode, the three authors provide a brief history of the project known as Pyrenees: Laboratory of the Olympic Ideal, and the one event it produced in 1993, the Pyrenean Games of Adventure. The Pyrenean Games were designed to promote new outdoor sports and to possibly become a third Olympic festival called the Spring Games. The authors offer another valuable addition to what Bruce Kidd has called "alternative Olympic histories," such as Regional Games, the Women's Olympics, or the Gay Games.

The Spring Games were the idea of a French caving guide called Jacques Marion. Based in the central Pyrenees, Marion wanted for the Pyrenees the same reputation as that held by the Alps, so that his locale could draw greater mountain tourism. He saw the preparations made for the Winter Games in Albertville and also for the Mediterranean Games in Agde, and was inspired to create a festival for new outdoor sports such as mountain biking, hang gliding, paragliding, skate boarding, and canyoning. Unusually, however, Marion combined adventure sports with his own admiration for the Olympic ideal. Being that adventure sports were traditionally somewhat more counterculture, this was unique. Apparently, Marion was able to merge the Olympic ideal with adventure sports by focusing on what he saw as a common denominator: achievement. Out of this diffusion emerged Pyrenees: Laboratory of the Olympic Ideal. Part of the project was to create a Spring Games, where 'spring' represented the season in which the Games were held, and the fledgling nature of the sports it showcased. Suchet et al note the difference between the Spring Games and the Summer and Winter Olympic Games "as the latter bring together institutionalized Anglo-Saxon sports, while the Spring Games aimed to develop new activities outside this institutional framework and to promote the sportification of these new forms of leisure." The Spring Games looked to establish new sports rather preserve the old, and "introduce a new sporting orthodoxy to these new sports."

Marion embarked on his idea in 1988, whereupon it developed a crossborder element with Spain. With this, the Spring Games then evolved into the Pyrenean Games of Adventure. The Pyrenean Games quickly gathered support from political figures and various sports organizations, including the National Olympic Committees of France, Spain, and Andorra. Even the IOC president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, announced that the IOC would be a patron for the event. The first Pyrenean Games of Adventure took place in 1993 in the Valleys of the Aure in France and the Sobrarbe in Spain. With over 1,000 competitors from 26 countries and 21,000 in attendance, it appears the event was a success.

Unfortunately, the new festival crumbled. Among other things, Marion and the politicians that helped fund the event were at odds on the future direction of the project, while companies that helped the event with marketing and financing went bankrupt. Faced with what amounted to insurmountable problems, the first Pyrenean Games of Adventure would also be the last.

Although this article is an important addition to our knowledge of "alternative Olympic histories," there are times when certain key themes are not fully developed. The authors claim to use the "concept of sportification" to discuss the Spring Games, though no definition is provided. Further to this, the authors fail to enlarge upon the rather vague link of "achievement" that apparently was used by Marion to fuse the Olympic ideal with adventure sports. There are also other areas that lack development. For example, inspiration is clearly drawn from Kidd's work. Kidd looked at how other large-scale festivals were elbowed out of the Olympic Movement or shunned by the leaders of the IOC. Suchet et al. mention only in passing that the IOC supported the single edition of the Spring Games. I was left wondering whether the IOC would ever have fully endorsed a third event to place alongside the Summer and Winter Games, or if the subject was ever broached with Samaranch? If so, how did he and the IOC react? Without further evidence regarding the role of the IOC in relation to the Spring Games, the reader is left with some reservation when the authors conclude that the article explores an "important phase in the history of the Olympics."
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Author:Rider, Toby
Publication:Olympika: The International Journal of Olympic Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2010
Words:736
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