When the Summer Olympics opened in London last Friday, there was a version of a religious ritual in the Olympic oath, procession of athletes and lighting of the flame. This was no accident because the modern Olympics have religious roots, though they appear to have largely secular fruits.
I’m reminded of this fact because it was in London in 1908 that an Anglican bishop named Ethelbert Talbot first said, “The most important thing in these Olympics is not so much winning as taking part” ”” a phrase that became part of the Olympic creed. He was following in the footsteps of Catholic priest Henri Didon, who gets credit for the official Olympic motto citius, altius, fortius (faster, higher, stronger). When Didon was a seminarian in the mid-1800s,his superiors organized “Olympic games” for the students, years before the first modern Olympiad in 1896.