2. Sports, Sportsmen, and Athletes
A good friend of mine, a Welsh friend, is a massive rugby fan. He particular favourite player was Lee Halfpenny. Having once jokingly asked a friend for Lee Halfpenny in a box for her birthday, said friend presented her with just that.
And there was something similar in the ancient world. The Romans could buy statuettes of favourite gladiators and chariot racers, and little bottles of their beloved charioteers’ sweat. The ladies could turn them into charm I don’t think one can buy these anymore, but it is not so different from an autograph from an idol or buying a T-shirt or poster with their picture, or even a phone cover. Okay, so these are a little less gross than the sweat bottle.
There are plenty of statues of athletes, some general depictions of the idealised male form, others more realistic.
Olympic victors became local heroes. Whilst they did not have the media and the internet to photography and promote them, they had sculptors. And they also had poets, like Pindar, who celebrated them in exquisite odes set to music. Classics scholar Armand d'Angour wrote a charming poem in the style of Pindar to celebrate the Olympics' return to Greece in 2004 (and also one for the London 2012 Olympics).
Here is a favourite statue of mine. The boxer. His face suggests experience, his physique success.
By Marie-Lan Nguyen (2009), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1234569
They were idolised, swooned over, admired for their skill and strength, and commemorated. What’s changed?