Erica Pincus (United States) on the Olympic Games: Sport, Spirit, and Sustainability

August 16, 2012

In a world with a wide variety of cultures and languages, it may seem hard at times to find common ground. However, the Olympic Games are unique in their power to transcend borders and unite the attention of the international community. During the Games, the host city is converted into a microcosm of the world as its streets fill with athletes, diplomats, and onlookers from around the world, each trying to savor the spirit of the Olympics. This spirit is based in the Olympic values—respect, friendship, and excellence—which are brought to life through the formal and informal cultural exchanges throughout the Games. The Olympics promote international understanding as they serve to remind us that each country is home to real people with real goals, brought together to celebrate sport, culture, and the development of a society in which peace is exalted and differences are respected.
Two pillars of the Olympic Charter are sport and culture; however, I believe that an integral way in which the Olympics will be able to bring their values to life in the twenty-first century is through the third pillar—that of the environment. The 1994 establishment of the environment as a third pillar of the Olympic Charter encourages the Games to implement sustainable technologies in order to set an example and promote the social responsibility that the Charter presents as a goal of Olympism. The influence that the Olympics can wield and the example that they can set should not be underestimated. For example, 32.6 million viewers watched the Opening Ceremonies for the Vancouver Olympics on NBC. With that many people around the world tuning in, the host city needs to consider what kind of example it wishes to set and what sustainable initiatives it wishes to display.

From net-zero energy buildings, to waste-heat recapturing systems, to systems of rainwater harvesting and more, the use of sustainable technology in the Olympic Games has led the relationship between sport and the environment in a positive direction. To ensure this pattern for the future, the use of sustainable technology in the Olympics needs to be maintained, developed, and expanded so that the Games can grow in their role as a model for environmental responsibility. In this way, the Olympics will not only work to increase respect between people of different cultures, but also aim to promote respect of the world that they inhabit.

Sustainability is one way in which the influence of the Olympic Games can be used to encourage social responsibility in-line with the Olympic values, but their influence does not stop there. The Games can be used as a platform to realize and promote the mutual respect and understanding that compose the core of the Olympic values. From Beijing to London to Rio de Janeiro, the Olympics have a unique role in affecting positive change as the worldwide audience unites to support the Olympians and learn more about the international community in which they live.
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