National Geographic : 1933 Jan
WHEN CZECHOSLOVAKIA PUTS A FALCON FEATHER IN ITS CAP which won the geographic setting for an accomplished fact. Dr. Tyrs built his dream on a drill squad of 75 Sokol members, who initiated his sys tem of gymnastics on March 5, 1862. The First Pan-Sokol Festival in 1881, includ ing 696 Sokols gathered from 76 different units, was considered a great success. The Seventh Sokol Festival in Praha in 1920, involving the mobilization of 70,000 trained athletes and countless spectators, was a major factor in the consolidation of a new nation in the heart of Europe. Czech consciousness and patriotism, fostered by the Sokol organization for nearly 60 years, had proved its worth. Shortly before the 1932 festival I flew over the great stadium on Strahov Hill. It seemed more like a village than an arena. There were 14o,ooo participants in this year's meeting. From June 5 to July 6 the athletic colony was busy. Preceding the main adult festival, from July 2 to July 6, first the children, then the adolescents, dis played their skill and training. From June 29 to July 6 the streets were a riot of color in informal or formal parades of marchers in local or national dress. THIE SOKOL ATTRACTS VISITORS FROM AFAR Delegates from neighboring lands added even greater variety to the display, which took on characteristics of a fashion show of peasant handicrafts and needlework. Although membership is limited to Slavs and a few nationals from countries which fought on the side of the Entente during the World War, Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, and Bulgars have been allied with the Czechs in the Sokol movement and recent festivals have had an international aspect. The Stars and Stripes wave over many a colorful procession and July 4 is cele brated as the "Fourth of July." It is hard to understand how drill teams from 3,144 widely distributed units arrive at such perfection; but the Sokol organi zation has its own publishing plant and the music to which the movements are set is distributed long before the show. Special gramophone records are made and sent to all parts of the country, and on Sunday mornings the Praha broadcasting station is used by Sokol instructors, who give directions and the words of command which are employed in the final exhibitions. Nothing is left to chance. That is con trary to the entire Sokol spirit. The festivals are distinguished not only by mass drills and colorful parades, but also by an allegorical pageant. In 1932 this allegory related this radio directed spectacle with the original Olym pic festivals which inspired Dr. Tyrs. From the central stage a figure imper sonating the Sokol founder expressed his aspirations for a healthy State composed of healthy beings. Time turned back to Olympia, where such ideals were so nota bly exemplified. Greek champions, war riors, priests, and poets engaged in spirited contests, and ancient Greece lived again. THE SPIRIT OF OLYMPIA IN A MODERN STATE These representatives of antique glories then turned into lifeless statues. There was a pause, during which one could sense the loss the world suffered when the glory that was Greece became a memory. Then the statues came to life, cast aside the drapings of an outworn past, and appeared in the Sokol uniforms which had won new glory during the mass drills of the earlier days of the festival. The Olympic ideal, resurrected, took a place in practical, mod ern living. All classes unite in this great exhibition of individual health and group efficiency. Visitors here see a unified nation in con certed action. Many a Czechoslovak is getting an even greater thrill. Splendid as is the spectacle from the side lines, a part in the big game is even more moving. Every six years a hundred thousand players, trained away from awkwardness and self-consciousness to grace and group-consciousness during months or years of practice, win a rich re ward for their efforts. Small teams of ath letes cannot attain this nation-wide spirit of coordination. The Sokol Festival is the flower of an entire nation's growth. During these golden days in Praha a highly industrialized and modern nation lives in the fairyland of beauty and dreams. Where has a dream proved more practical than that of Tyrs, who, behind trained muscles, glimpsed clear, clean, thinking minds and the free State they were to build and serve?