With the 2012 London Olympics coming to a close many newly decorated athletes walk away with endorsement deals, some leave to go on tour, some retire, some begin training for their next competition, and some even walk away with offers to appear on popular television shows. However, instead of going into specifics about who will be doing what post-Olympic Games, I wish to address the question of what we can take away from the Olympics.
As spectators, we have high expectations for Olympic athletes; not only are they there to represent themselves, but they are also there to represent their countries, and us. As Darwin rightly pointed out in his theory of evolution humans are competitive by nature, and we must be in order to survive. However, the Olympics are about more than making sure we beat the Chinese on the medal chart.
The Olympic Games were first established as a competition among the various city-states and kingdoms of Ancient Greece. What made the Olympics a revolutionary and inspiring event was that, for the games, truces were called on the battlefield and wars were put on hold. Since the beginning, the Olympic Games have embodied the spirit of peace and unity and the same is true today.
When Oscar Pistorius, a South African sprinter who is a double amputee, running on two metal blades, competed in the most recent Olympics—the first paralympian to ever do so—he was cheered on around the globe just as loudly as he was in his native South Africa.
Sadly, the media rarely focuses on the inspirational messages the Olympics embody, favoring trivial complaints and “scandals” such as Gabby Douglas’ hairstyle.
The Olympic Creed states: “The most important thing is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.” Although these are high ideals and the cynic, or perhaps realist, may scoff at how much these are actually at play, it is nevertheless true that part of what attracts us to the Olympic Games is that they do, at least some of the time, embody these high aspirations. So I ask that, as we enter the new school year, we put aside our competitive nature and keep in mind the empowering message the Olympic Games represent long after the Olympic torch has been doused.
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