July 9, 2012
SHSU Media Contact: Kim Mathie
Jean Bodon, professor and chair of Sam Houston State University’s department of mass communication, has a special interest in Olympic history. From the participants to the different sports to the minutiae that might escape a non-historian’s notice, he likes it all.
“I watched my first Olympic Games when I was 10 years old,” said Bodon, who grew up in Paris. “I’ve studied the Olympics all my life since then—reading magazines, reports, and watching interviews.”
He’s even a member of the International Society of Olympic Historians, a group of hundreds of Olympic champions and historians.
Part of his interest stems from his fascination in what makes an Olympic champion. It’s a question that’s reverberated throughout his lifetime beginning with his father Jan’s quest to be a champion himself as part of the French national team.
“My father was very athletic. He was a fencer and water polo player,” said Bodon. “He was close to being in the Olympics, but he wasn’t good enough.”
Still, friendly with many Olympic champions, his father regaled him with stories, stories Bodon described as “great, pathetic and very sad.” All of them inspired and deepened his interest in the Olympics.
“To be a champion, it’s a huge commitment—physically, emotionally and intellectually,” said Bodon. “It’s also very psychological. How much training can you take?”
Bodon didn’t leave the question to the abstract. Much like his father, he aspired to be a champion as well, only in swimming, but “failed miserably” when the time came to qualify. Bodon’s 17-year-old daughter, Eva, also has Olympic dreams of her own, also in swimming.
Unlike many athletes today, he only had one chance to make the Olympic team.
“Back then it was different,” said Bodon. “If you’re past 22, it’s over. Now athletes peak at 30 or 32. I had my chance.”
Instead he attended Birmingham Southern University to study philosophy. The Olympics and its rich history would remain his hobby.
“I’m still interested; I don’t know why,” Bodon said. “I like the excitement of seeing people doing extremely well, I guess.”
The event as a whole still captures his attention, particularly when he can connect history to present day events.
“The Queen of England is opening the games this year,” said Bodon about the 2012 summer games in London. “Her father—King George VI—opened the 1948 Olympic Games. He was known as the stuttering King, and he had a lot of problems making that speech. I’m sure it’ll be an emotional moment for the Queen.”
Bodon translates his interest in Olympic history into documentary films. He’s already produced three films—two on swimming and one on track and field. He’s also in the process of editing a film on Ota Benga, the Congo pygmy put on exhibit with monkeys in the Bronx Zoo during the 1904 Anthropological Games and World Fair in St. Louis, the first Olympics on American soil.
“If I find a story fascinating, I’m going to go for it,” said Bodon.
Bodon will be in Paris during the London Olympic Games, and he’ll definitely be watching.
“My favorite event is track and field because of its pure human ability,” said Bodon. “I’m interested in the art of gymnastics, but the judging is done by peers. In track and field, whoever runs the fastest, jumps higher, wins.”
“I always get a little depressed after the games,” continued Bodon. “But at least there’s more excitement to come: the U.S. Open and the presidential elections.”