Asterix at the Olympic Games (1968)

Astérix aux jeux olympiques

Presenting a pretentious thematic undercurrent…

This Olympic portrayal combines historic verisimilitude with some very modern trappings, in particular the use of performance-enhancing drugs by gold-medalists.

Notable Nomenclature…

  • Gluteus Maximus (it was inevitable that this name would crop up sooner or later): champion athlete.
  • Gaius Veriambitius: his promoter, a Roman Centurian.
  • Diabetes: Athenian tour guide.
  • Makalos: currency exchange merchant.
  • Kudos: chariot driver.
  • Thermos: restauranteur.
  • Pungnatious: Roman wrestler with a fine taste in yellow-spotted underpants.
  • Saintpancras: Olympic magistrate.
  • Philibuster: Greek Orator.

Continuity; lack-thereof and other gaffes…

  • Dogmatix is uncharacteristically stoic when Obelix chucks around an uprooted tree (p5).
  • First use of an occasional running gag that Vitalstatistix only has one bath a year – and is always disturbed during it (p6).
  • Getafix’s magic potion is shown to infer great speed as well as strength – Dogmatix is still faster then the doped-up villagers, though (pp 4 and 11).
  • For the first and only time the Village’s entire male population goes on holiday (p14).
  • Geriatrix first exhibits his appreciation of the nubile female form (p18).
  • Obelix reminisces about eating veal in a restaurant in Lugdunum. Not a reference to Asterix and the Banquet though – as there they do not linger in Lyons beyond running the Romans astray in a maze (p22).
  • Nice ending – but one cannot really imagine Gluteus’s Roman rivals letting him acknowledge an award they know he did not win (p44).

Cleverness and contemporaneity…

  • The Gauls play the Romans at their own game when they temporarily accept their Gallo-Roman status in order to qualify for the games (p9).
  • Features two of Uderzo’s best vistas – the port of Piraeus (p17) and the city of Olympia (p24).
  • Vitalstatistix falls for a typically deceptive holiday brochure- the actual passage requires the passengers to act as galley-slaves and to pay a surcharge for boarding pirates (pp14-17).
  • The pirates once again scupper their own ship (p16).
  • The Gauls travel on a tour-coach marked ‘Gallo-Roman Team’ (p19).
  • Goscinny and Uderzo themselves are self-caricatured as Olympic officials – first taking tickets at the gate; and later umpiring the track events (pp15 and 43).
  • Greek vase-painters act as the ancient equivalent of photographers. Fulliautomatix (for some reason carrying his hammer around with him) poses for a white-figure painting and later there are official vase-painters covering the training and events (p21 etc).
  • Geriatrix’s night on the tiles is a reference to Zorba the Greek (1965). (p 23) (Kessler).
  • The resigned-to-defeat Roman athletes undergo a decline-and-fall in miniature (p27).
  • Getafix’s potion is revealed as a precursor to anabolic steroids (p30).
  • Note this ‘rear-kicking’ hieroglyph threat from a visiting Egyptian (p31).
  • Getafix is equipped with a stop-sand-timer (p33).
  • The women’s prophetic claim to equal rights is treated with disdain (p33).
  • Wordplay about the competing races attributes includes one of the series’ more esoteric references – to the Eleusian Mysteries (p34).
  • The Greek officials acknowledge the role of tourism in the modern games (p37).
  • The Greek cock’s wake-up call is ‘Cockadoodledos’ (p40).
  • Cacofonix gets to sit at the banquet. But Fulliautomatix hammer is on standby (p44).

That Army Recruitment Drive…

“Join the army…an atmosphere of healthy comradeship.” (p10.)

Non-PC World…

  • There are multiple references to Greek nepotism/keeping-it-in-the-family, which I admit I don’t get.
  • Greeks are portrayed in profile with flat noses and domed foreheads.

Obelix has a tender side…

  • Gluteus Maximus will not call him ‘fatty’ a second time (p5).
  • Semantic angst about his infantile-ablution-vessel. In Obelix’s logic, if he’d fallen into a pot, instead of a cauldron, of potion he’d have been able to compete (p32).

Classic Pegleg

No Latin – just a jibe at the African lookout that would qualify for the Non-PC World section (p16).

Good or What?

Great.

Classic adventure with some of the highest sustained levels of humour to be of the whole series. Geriatrix’s night out on the town is just one of many highlights.