Chad Beyer (South Africa) on the Role of Olympic Values in the Twenty-First Century

August 6, 2012

The world is progressing away from individual and collective identity to a status quo in which global identity is spread across the collective international community. This does not just show our amalgamation of ideas and abilities in a positive light, but also exposes our failure in achieving the ideal of a free, integrated, and globalized world.
The concept of difference and discrimination is a concept that South Africa is particularly in tune with. We are the most economically segregated country in the world and, as such, a level of classist discrimination has developed between the people of our land. We need to actively address this, lest we fall into a painfully reminiscent experience.

Africa has an increasingly relevant role to play in the global arena. If we are to compete on an international level, we need to incorporate a sense of moral community into our everyday context.

Sport has a unique ability to unite people of differing backgrounds under a common goal. This is why the propagation of sporting initiatives among youth must be actively encouraged, in order to promote this ideal at grassroots level. We as South Africans experienced a poignant example of this with our 1995 Rugby World Cup victory. This was a situation that allowed our nation to collectively integrate in a previously segregated activity.

Additionally, the level of disparity in our country is massive and our educational system is failing to address these painful truths. Yet it is education, which presents a saving grace to address economical inequality. Education also allows people to contextualize others and gain a deeper understanding of themselves.

Related, I believe that debate and discussion is vital to be able to empathize and incorporate other peoples’ belief systems into your own personal cognition. This is something that is lacking in our global environment. The concept that, beyond axiomatic moral principles, there is a right and wrong opinion is a vile concept permeating our collective psyche. We need to actively address this. While traveling on the Rotary Youth Exchange, I learned the concept of “it’s not right, it’s not wrong, it’s just different.” I believe that debating and education allow for the redistribution of this important concept I learned abroad. Only when you experience, interact with, and attempt to understand the personal situation of another can you truly begin to empathize without judging and legitimize a social connection beyond passive, politically correct moderation.

In terms of public initiatives, personal and communal uplifting must go hand in hand, for when the one precedes without, or at the expense of, the other we run the risk of not realizing either, personally and collectively. In this way, the Olympic values of old can be realized: through respect for interpersonal and intercultural excellence leading to international friendship.

The Olympics have always been a social barometer for global opinion. I believe the global conscience inherent in the Olympic values needs to be actively realized in guiding social justice and equality across the world.
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