The Olympic Games: Moments of peace in troubled times
I love the Olympics. Summer. Winter. Doesn’t matter. I love the games as a celebration of our shared humanity. The grace, the balance, the beauty, the rhythm and precision, the teamwork, the intensity expressed on human faces — unique faces from all over the world.
It’s a showcase for the best of the best in human performance. It’s a time when I can imagine that even the birds in the sky stop pitying our wingless disability long enough to actually grant us a little respect as a species.
There are 205 nations with athletes competing in this year’s Olympic Games. In trials and rivalries ranging from individual competitions to team events, the world comes together to compete — honorably and respectfully. The Olympics give us those incredible moments when people around the world cheer together, putting aside geopolitical differences even if only for a few minutes (or for mere nano-seconds at the finish line) to complete contest after contest, awarding medal after medal.
The first Olympic Games date back to 776 B.C. According to the official Olympics website, while the games began in ancient Greece as part of a religious festival to honor Zeus, the greater purpose was “to show the physical qualities and evolution of the performances accomplished by young people, as well as encouraging good relations between the cities of Greece.”
But it wasn’t until the late 1800s that the modern International Olympic Games came into being, thanks to French Baron Pierre de Coubertin. This writer and educator saw a great need for sport in the education process and rallied the necessary support to make it a reality. He believed, deeply, that sport “is an amazing tool which helps to build a better world.” And it’s true that in those minutes (and final nano-seconds) of friendly competition, we see proof of a better world, a more civilized world.
The first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896. The Torch Relay symbolically connects the ancient and modern Olympics. The Olympic motto “citius, altius, fortius” is Latin for “faster, higher, stronger.” I like that. There is no insult and no tragedy to be found in those words.
I see the Olympics as a reassurance of sorts that there is a counter-harmonic to the cruelty and disregard our species seems all-too-easily capable of — tendencies and incidents that so often dominate broadcasts and headlines.
A few days ago, an editorial in The Daily Sentinel asserted that “for some people, these Olympic games have not generated the same sort of enthusiasm that previous contests have. There’s not the same eagerness to watch the competition unfold.” I sure hope that’s not the case, but with all the behind-the-scenes challenges detailed in that editorial, maybe it is.
I’m not so naive as to assume that everyone shares my passion for the Olympics. We are definitely not a homogeneous, one-size-fits-all species, we humans.
And it could well be that my friends and family are in the minority, since we are quite eager to “watch the competition unfold,” ready for those moments of friendly competition on the world stage.
There could be an Olympics for just about everything, as far as I’m concerned. Welding. Cooking. Cement pouring. Sewing. Job creation. Tire changing. People helping people.
Selfishly, I guess I need the Olympics and their idealistic moments of friendly competition — to share in and celebrate the amazing, beautiful, simple, honorable, intriguing, awe-inspiring capabilities of being human. These qualities flourish right here at home too, right here in western Colorado. They’re real and accessible despite the hardships and challenges of our time and place.
We don’t need to be trained athletes to behold the Colorado National Monument’s red cliff faces bathed in the late afternoon light or iconic Mount Garfield sparkling with fresh snow on a sunny winter morning or the carefree laughter of a curious child. We don’t need to be Olympians to go “faster, higher, stronger” in even the simplest of tasks in our daily lives.
Thank you to all the athletes and to everyone who makes possible the Olympic Games.Thank you for inspiring us with these extraordinary moments of world peace. Godspeed.