Karl Barth on the Olympic Games


I don’t think the Swiss theologian was a fan. But he does mention Pele:

Today what is called sport seems to have become the playground of a particular earth-spirit. In most cases the old and honest saying, “a healthy mind in a healthy body” can no longer be invoked today as a rational explanation of what motivates active sporting figures….What is behind the enthusiasm of millions of sporting fans who watch the players with such passionate and often frenzied excitement? … Why is the Sunday evening paper so infinitely more important to countless numbers of people because of the late news it gives about football scores rather than accounts of the most astounding and momentous things that might have happened in the arena of world politics? After the soccer championship game in Sweden in 1958, what led Brazil, the home of the victorious team, to establish a national holiday, and what was it that brought the prodigy, Pele, then seventeen years old, not only a good deal of money …but also no fewer than five hundred offers of marriage, while on the same occasion Germany, for the opposite reason, threatened to plunge into a kind of irritated national mourning with all kinds of accompanying phenomena? Why all this fuss and fury? What is the real glory (doxa) of the winner of the Tour or France or Switzerland? … What is the majesty that has brought to the Olympic games the regular cultic form of worship, praise, laud and thanksgiving? So many facts, questions, and riddles! It should be obvious that we have here a special form of derangement. Man has lost and continually loses his true majesty. It is thus inevitable that, in this matter too, sense should change into nonsense.”

Karl Barth, The Christian Life, 230–1 (CD IV.4 fragments)

HT: Ian Clary via Facebook