In 1908, in the wake of a serious economic crisis, Rome gave up the chance to host the Olympic Games. Instead they took place for the first time, in London. In the same year, Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, sought help from the Vatican to support the Games, and Pope Pius X, (who was canonized in 1954) offered his support.
That moment at the beginning of the twentieth century is described in a book entitled 'Pio X e lo sport' by Antonella Stelitano. At that time "less than one per cent of the population practised any sporting activity, ... and sport was used only as a form of military training or as a pastime for the upper classes", the author explained in an interview with Vatican Radio on the eve on the London 2012 Games.
However, she said, St Pius X was aware of the educational potential of sport. He saw it as a way "to approach young people, and to bring them together while following certain rules and showing respect for adversaries"
" He understood that it was possible to bring people together simply, without any problems of race, religion or differing political ideas".
At that time in history many people did not understand the importance of exercise, said Antonella Stelitano who concluded her interview by recalling an anecdote whereby Pius X told one of his cardinals: "All right, if it is impossible to understand that this can be done, then I myself will do exercise in front of everyone so that they may see that, if the Pope can do it, anyone can do it".