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The ‘Premiere’: A Performance? A Record ?

Pierre-Olaf Schut
Antoine Marsac


Within the context of outdoor sports, a « premiere » is a special kind of performance that deserves to be deciphered because it contributes to the understanding of the values of outdoor activities. Indeed, the analogy between premieres and sporting records needs to be questioned. Both are performances, but their social significance is fundamentally different. The object of this communication is to highlight the specificities of premieres as opposed to sporting records, to reach a better understanding of the identity of outdoor sports. We shall base this study on a socio-historical analysis of premieres and their appraisal in various media – media specific to a community of people involved in these activities, but also mass media (press, TV). To offer a general explanation of the phenomenon, we shall provide illustrative examples from a wide range of outdoor sports, with special emphasis on those we have studied more in depth (mountaineering, climbing, canoeing, caving, etc.). Also, we shall not limit ourselves to a definite period, so as to bypass conjunctural explanations and chronologies specific to the history of each sports discipline. The major outcomes of our study reveal that premieres and records do have some common characteristics, especially in relation to physical performance and the public recognition they bring. However, premieres stand out through many aspects, like their uniqueness which gives them a specific historicity. Premieres refer to discoveries the main value of which is that they were made first. As opposed to sporting records, they do not take place within regulated contexts and are not meant to be beat, thus keeping up a ceaseless quest for progress. Nevertheless, premieres can be repeated in another way. Indeed, they are part of a dynamic process of endless discovery and rediscovery of the world. Any change in an itinerary, any unknown part of the globe, any new implementation method is an occasion for a premiere. This constant accomplishment of feats does not systematically attract media attention and sometimes remains confined to a small group. There again, the globalization phenomenon at work in modern sport is drowning into a multiple scale system that grants the actors widely varying degrees of recognition. Analysing a premiere thus offers an original look on a form of atypical performance. Beside depicting a particularism, this study provides information on the identity of outdoor sports and accounts for the mobility inherent to these practices in as much as discovery is their main driving force.


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hal-01604248 , version 1 (02-10-2017)


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Pierre-Olaf Schut, Antoine Marsac. The ‘Premiere’: A Performance? A Record ?. 45th Annual Convention of the North American Society of Sport History, May 2017, Fullerton, United States. ⟨hal-01604248⟩
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