The 'Moral Center' of the Olympic Games
ATLANTA — During 10 years of shepherding a team of writers and researchers in compiling a history of the modern Olympics, Gary Allison made many interesting discoveries. One seems to excite him more than any other - the role of a man he calls "the father of the United States Olympic movement."
William Milligan Sloane, a distinguished scholar, was not on a US Olympic Committee list used by Mr. Allison and his colleagues, who have been working on the First Century Project, which the Committee created to mark the 100th anniversary of the Games. The project has produced "The Olympic Century: The Official 1st Century History of the Modern Olympic Movement."
What makes the discovery of Dr. Sloane so timely is the legacy his influence has had on the Centennial Games, in which 197 nations are competing.
Sloane, they learned, was America's only founding delegate to an 1894 international congress held to consider reestablishing the Olympics. The group agreed to revive the Games for the world's youths, but Sloane, a visionary and religious man, felt it important to go a step further. "He initiated quite a debate over a single-word entry to that declaration, which was 'all,' " Allison says. "This meant Asians, [Africans], Latins, and women. That was extraordinary thinking for 1894."
This key word was accepted, and for years Sloane worked to develop sports in South America, Asia, and Africa. This met with consternation in some Olympic quarters, which explains why his name was expunged from important documents. He became the invisible force of the Olympics, a man his friend and Olympic founder Pierre de Coubertin would call "the moral center of the [Games] revival."