I love sport, and am usually happy watching it until my eyes go goggly! But I find my enthusiasm for the Olympics is waning, although it’s still great entertainment. No doubt it’s partly because of the timing (so much is happening in the early hours) and partly because of the doping scandals which have preoccupied us in the build up to the games. But there’s more to it.
The website of the International Olympic Committee tells us:
The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
It’s in an inspiring vision reminding what it’s all about underneath the razzamatazz.
The Olympics are certainly full of inspiring personal stories which are not always about the medal-winners. Athletes showcase the value, and joy, of sustained hard work. Hopefully, the games will inspire all of us (but especially young people) to play sport, look after our bodies better and develop our talents.
I’m cautious because it seems to me that the Olympic Games divide people at least as much as they unite. They divide them into nations, vying with each other for sporting success – on the field and off the field, with national pride at stake. At best it makes for great competition. At worst it leads to state-sponsored doping, broken people and big political fallout.
National pride is a good thing in its proper place, giving us identity and a sense of belonging and a way of dividing ourselves into teams and having great fun. But like so much that is good, it has the potential to become a monster.
For Christians, there’s only one human family, only one God and Father of us all. In the human race every person and every gift well used is to be celebrated. As we cheer on the British athletes, we also recognise our common humanity with the other competitors.
On TV and in the press, we are constantly fed the medals table, and “success” for Team GB is usually counted by the number of medals won. Medals are won by talented individuals by hard work, good training facilities and MONEY.
Team GB athletes regularly talk about achieving certain results to protect their future funding. Bigger, richer nations can and do buy success, which is hardly “fair play”. It’s a great moment, a truly Olympic moment, when sheer talent overcomes lack of money and wins. Maybe even a sign of the Kingdom.
I must admit that I get very impatient with sports coverage on TV. Far too much time is taken up doing interviews or talking about sport instead of actually showing the action. But I’m probably wrong about this. The real meaning of the Olympics can only be revealed by the stories behind the action.