Historic documents that outlined a plan to revive the ancient Olympic competitions of Greece were sold for millions at auction this week — massively surpassing all expectations and setting a record bid for sports memorabilia.
According to CBS News, the 5,000-word Olympic Games Manifesto was expected to fetch between $700,000 to $1 million when the documents went up for auction at Sotheby’s on Wednesday. But after a 12-minute bidding war, the price skyrocketed and was eventually sold to an unidentified buyer for $8.8 million.
The documents were lost during the First and Second World Wars, but were eventually recovered by Marquis d’Amat of France, according to NBC News. He searched flea markets in Europe and the United States, until he finally found the documents in the possession of a collector in Switzerland.
The manifesto consists of 14 pages written by future International Olympic Committee founder Pierre de Coubertin, who presented his argument for the re-establishment of the Olympic games at the annual meeting of the Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques in 1892. Coubertin asserted that the world needed a “return to Olympian ideals” in time for the new century, according to a description of the documents from Sotheby’s.
“It is clear that the telegraph, railways, the telephone, the passionate research in science, congresses and exhibitions have done more for peace than any treaty or diplomatic convention,” Coubertin wrote in the manifesto. “Well, I hope that athletics will do even more. Those who have seen 30,000 people running through the rain to attend a football match will not think that I am exaggerating.”
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Coubertin argued that through global athletic competition, peace could be found between nations.
“Let us export rowers, runners and fencers; this is the free trade of the future, and the day that it is introduced into the everyday existence of old Europe, the cause of peace will receive new and powerful support,” he wrote, according to a description on Sotheby’s website.
“That is enough to encourage me to think now about the second part of my program,” he continued. “I hope that you will help me as you have helped me thus far and that, with you, I shall be able to continue and realize, on a basis appropriate to the conditions of modern life, this grandiose and beneficent work: the re-establishment of the Olympic Games.”
Two years after his speech, the International Olympic Committee was formed, and two years after that, the first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896.
The $8.8 million auction price is the highest ever paid for a piece of sports memorabilia, surpassing the $5.4 million bid for a Babe Ruth New York Yankees jersey sold earlier this year.
The sale comes ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.