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The Legacy of a Cultural Elite: The British Olympic Association.

Day, Dave (2020) The Legacy of a Cultural Elite: The British Olympic Association. In: Joint LUH and MMU Workshop on Cultural Heritage, 30 October 2019 - 31 October 2019, Leibniz University, Hannover. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

At the 1996 Olympics Britain finished thirty-sixth, but changes in the State’s attitudes towards intervention resulted in an upwards trajectory that culminated in a second position in the medal table in 2016. The Government’s willingness to invest through the National Lottery after 1996 had signalled a major shift in its approach towards elite sport and marked a turning point for many long-held traditions. This paper examines a significant influence on these traditions, the British Olympic Association (BOA), and its relationship with amateurism, a sporting philosophy espoused by the cultural elites who formed the BOA in 1905. Confident in their social and political status, this sporting aristocracy used their cultural power throughout the twentieth century to impose their own hegemonic version of how sport should be managed and the values that participants should espouse. This paper draws on a range of archives to illustrate the impact of this upper-class cultural elite on the development of Olympic sports in Britain. It discusses the formation and development of the BOA by this social elite and highlights the ways in which their legacy of class interests still resonates.

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