Around the Rings
By Karen Rosen
(ATR) After more than 20 years as an Olympic bid campaign writer and strategist, George Hirthler is writing a historical novel to tell the story of Baron Pierre de Coubertin.
Hirthler hopes to finish “The Idealist” by the end of this year and publish it in 2014. He calls the life of Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, “the greatest untold story in the history of the Olympic Movement.”
“His work is known by virtually everybody in the world, but his name has been lost in the folds of time,” Hirthler tells Around the Rings. “His personal imprint is on every Olympic dream, and therefore everybody who knows about the Olympics should know who he is.”
The novel begins in 1937, near the end of Coubertin’s life, when a fictional sports journalist named Jacques St. Clair moves to Lausanne with his American girlfriend, painter Juliette Franklin, to interview the Baron for a biography.
“My goal is to give people imaginative access to the life he lived and the ideas that inspired him,” says Hirthler, who also explores the changes Coubertin witnessed in Paris, the city of his birth.
“I thought historical fiction would allow me to dramatize the events in his life in a way that nonfiction wouldn’t and really bring his story to life.”
From his research, Hirthler discovered that launching the Olympic Movement was a continuous struggle for Coubertin.
“He had one enemy after another and the hardships never ended,” he says. “There are triumphs through the Games, but there’s personal tragedy and there are professional disappointments; he was a man of his times, so he was shortsighted in some areas, but he was completely visionary in others.”
The Baron died nearly destitute, leaving behind 60,000 pages promoting his ideals. “He gave everything he had, every waking moment,” Hirthler says, “to making the Olympic Movement a success and a reality in his lifetime.”
Hirthler is seeking a literary agent and a publisher. Because 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of Coubertin’s birth, he says he “felt a certain responsibility to celebrate by getting his story out.”
Hirthler is hoping to build interest through the book’s website, which includes the first chapter.
Based in Atlanta, Hirthler has been a leading communications strategist for 10 Olympic bid cities: Atlanta 1996, Istanbul 2000, Stockholm 2004, Klagenfurt 2006, Beijing 2008, Vancouver 2010, NYC 2012, Salzburg 2014, Chicago 2016 and Munich 2018. He also wrote the theme for the Beijing 2008 Olympics, “One World, One Dream,” and the winning bid for the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games for Innsbruck 2012.
In producing Olympic bid materials, Hirthler has always made references to Coubertin or the Olympic ideals and values he shaped.
He was awarded the Chevalier in the Order of Arts & Letters by the Republic of France in 1996 for his work in promoting the Olympic ideals through the United States Pierre de Coubertin Committee, which he founded three years earlier.
The committee raised $500,000 and commissioned the sculpture of Coubertin in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta.
“The Olympic Games are the one place where all humanity assembles to celebrate the things we have in common rather than the things that divide us,” Hirthler says. “It really is the greatest movement for friendship and peace in our world today.”