Playing Games: Writing Postmodern Olympic Identity
The Olympic Games activate a collective legend, taking up the myth of sports as an "anti-society" (G. Vigarello) which shapes its meritocratic and democratic models like an ideal mirror of actual society. This paper discusses the construction of an olympic "mythology" through current-day olympic literary fiction and its complex encounters with postmodernism. A collection of eleven short stories entitled Olive Branches and Garlands: Eleven Short Stories for the Olympic Games, written by eleven well-known Greek writers especially for the occasion of Athens 2004 Olympics is studied in relation to this topic. This collection distributed to all the olympic volunteers was intended as a contribution to the "olympic identity" of the 2004 host nation and its future successors. Nevertheless the construction of an olympic identity involves dealing with a number of contradictions inherent in the modern Olympic Games, which symbolise high performance, global cooperation and international understanding but come in constant clash with the harsh realities of doping, racism or commercialisation. This paper investigates how olympic fiction encompasses these quandaries by evoking general features of games like "agon" and "mimicry" (R. Caillois) and reflects key aspects of the postmodern condition such as "dromocracy" (P. Virilio) - the Olympic Games viewed as a privileged metaphor of the pursuit of ever-increasing speed. The literary genre of the short stories collection is also considered in its active role to the formation of the olympic narration. Through the complex negotiations between an ethno-centric vs. a globalized model, or a "dromocratic" identity seen as a "success story" vs. a rather "labyrinthine" process of self-formation, the emerging olympic identity in this literary work seems in turn to provide insights into post-modern societies.
Keywords: Literary Theory, Postmodernism, Identity, Games Theory
Dr Peggy Karpouzou
Adjunct Assistant Professor in Literary Theory, Department of Theatre Studies, University of Patras