Vatican City, (VIS) - It was 1908 when, in the wake of a serious economic crisis, Rome renounced hosting the Olympic Games which were eventually celebrated in London, England. In the same year Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, sought help from the Vatican to support the Games, and Pope St. Pius X in person offered him his support.
More than one hundred years later, the British capital is hosting the Olympic Games for the third time. The event is due to open this evening.
That moment at the beginning of the twentieth century is described in a book entitled "Pio X e lo sport" by Antonella Stelitano. At that time "less than one per cent of the population practised any sporting activity, ... and sport was used only as a form of military training or as a pastime for the upper classes", the author explained in an interview with Vatican Radio.
However "St. Pius X ... was aware of the educational potential of sport". He saw it as a way "to approach young people, and to bring them together while following certain rules and showing respect for adversaries. I believe", the author explained, "that he understood that it was possible to bring people together simply, without any problems of race, religion or differing political ideas".
At that time in history many people did not understand the importance of exercise, said Antonella Stelitano who concluded her interview by recalling an anecdote whereby Pius X told one of his cardinals: "All right, if it is impossible to understand that this can be done, then I myself will do exercise in front of everyone so that they may see that, if the Pope can do it, anyone can do it".