Olympic Idealism and Society’s Realism
Having attended my first ever Olympic event this week, I was filled with pride, joy and a great appreciation of our shared humanity. This may seem an over the top reaction for what is essentially just a sporting event, but the ideals promoted by the Olympics represents so much more.
The Olympic Games is the pinnacle of sporting excellence but it is the Olympic Spirit which really touched me - a celebration of our global co-existence and a celebration of our shared humanity. It is easy to view the world through a blinkered perspective, a mono-culture of the 'west and the rest', yet the Opening Ceremony with representatives from countries all around the world, countries which I have to admit, I did not even know existed, highlighted the beauty of our global diversity.
It seemed that national rivalries, political wrangling , and conflict had been put aside and replaced with a global pride. The parade of Olympians was filled with peoples of every possible hue from countries rich and poor adorned in national dress and sporting attire , all joined together in a carnival of sport - the party had begun and everyone was on the guestlist.
This feeling continued as I visited the Olympic Park. Wielding my plastic mock Olympic torch, designed with the British flag, I carried it proudly. It was the first time that I can honestly say I felt British. The team of outstanding volunteers greeted the home and international guests with a zeal and enthusiasm that no minimum wage could have mustered.
Spectators dressed in their national colours, draped in their national flags proudly - the act was inclusive. Their pride was my pride, our pride, we were all here together to share in an Olympic experience where our nationalities were important, but not to the exclusion of others.
For 17 days once every 4 years, the ideals demonstrated by the Olympics makes it possible to escape the realities of society and instead rejoice at being part of a truly global community in harmony with itself.
I wish society always reflected these ideals but sadly it does not. Outside of the Olympics we know very well that global harmony is very much an ideal that is far from reality. A UN that procrastinates and bickers while Syria implodes, the suppression of democracy in Russia, and the rise of far right politics in Greece and across Europe are but a few examples…
Even within the Olympics we cannot fully escape the realities of society, note the wretched antics of the Lithuanian Basketball fans, and the racist messages on Twitter by Swiss football player Michel Morganella, and Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou.
Thankfully, official bodies of the Olympics demonstrated through action that they will not tolerate the attempts of a few to put a stain on these ideals. The Lithuanian fans are being dealt with by the British authorities, the IOC acted swiftly removing their Morganella’s Olympic accreditation, and Greek Olympic officials dismissed Papachristou from the team promptly after her post.
Although two athletes do not represent the nearly 11,000 athletes, and the behaviour of the majority of fans has been exemplary, the actions of these few revealed a bitter sweet truth that even within the Olympics not everyone subscribes to these ideals. The ideals are very much that, not realities.
Nevertheless the London Games have and will continue to be spectacular. Let us not allow the antics of these few spoil our global party. We should enjoy and celebrate the Olympics, not just the sporting spectacle, but the brief window the Olympic period represents where our humanity unifies rather than divides us. A time where we can all just get along.
When it is over, the real Olympic legacy will be making the reality of our society live up to the ideals offered by the Olympics.