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Coursera ‘Olympics and the Media’ Course introduces pillars of Olympic success

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This month, hundreds of active learners around the world are taking a new course called “The Olympics and the Media.” It is being presented by online education company Coursera with content and lectures developed by the Olympic Studies Centre of the Autonomous University of Barcelona. There are many discussion forums which are an interesting way to network with former Olympic athletes and officials, as well as many other members of the Olympic community.

A popular topic of discussion has been the foundations of the modern Olympics. These emerged in the late Nineteenth Century at the same time that strong foundations for global organizations were created by universal communications and exchange of ideas. Faster transport and communications networks played a major role. Rail networks and steamship connections made it possible to complete many international trips in just a few days and to travel anywhere in the world in less than a month. International telegraph service was followed by international voice communications lines in the late Nineteenth Century and the introduction of radiowave link international calling in 1912. In addition, rapid expansion of global enterprises based in England and France gave the world common languages to communicate with, as demonstrated by the adoption of French and English as the official languages of the International Olympic Committee.

These favorable foundations for the creation of sports federations on an international scale were also favorable for the rapid growth of international news organizations and media which could communicate the athletic and organizational achievements of the Olympics to a global audience. Reuters, Associated Press, and Agence France Press became global organizations which provided reports and photos of Olympic sports to newspapers and magazines for inclusion in local publications. Newsreel services replicated this success with motion pictures that shared the visual impact of international athletic contests and the pageantry of the modern Olympic Games.

These same foundations also promoted World’s Fair Exhibitions that also supported intercultural exchange and helped to build an international audience for Olympic events. The 1900 Olympic Games were held in Paris at the time of the 1900 World’s Fair. In 1904 and 1908, the Olympic Games took place at the exhibition venues of the World’s Fairs, in Saint Louis in 1904 and in London in 1908.

Visionary leadership by the International Olympic Committee and its first President, Pierre de Coubertin, reinforced these favorable trends to make the modern Olympics a favorite subject for international audiences. Pierre de Coubertin’s own example of publishing 11,000 articles and 46 books encouraged many others to cover Olympic sports and helped to build large audiences for coverage of international sports events. The Olympic movement also made a wise decision to be selective in media coverage by establishing a formal accreditation process. As global media expanded to include radio and television in the future, these strong foundations supported even more successful coverage of the Olympics in media around the world.

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