Evangelos Alexandrakis (United Kingdom) on How to Be an Olympian Yourself!

June 19, 2012

I was about six years old when I first heard my teacher talking about the ancient Olympics and the institution of the truce. I said to myself that there must be something really special about the Olympics. Many years ago it had the power to bring people together and make them forget about their differences. Now, thousands of years later, having survived wars, natural disasters, and significant social and political reforms, the Games still do the same thing, or at least that’s the idea.
Since this day, I have stayed loyal to the Olympic values, believing in the power of the Olympics as a tool for peace-building, and social and personal development—a connecting force that could bring people and nations together. During all these years, I have rarely met somebody who also shares these beliefs. Most of the time, I have come across opposite arguments, such as “it’s all about money,” “it’s all about doping,” and “peace through sport? – give me a break.” I tried to explain what the Olympic values are and what their real meaning is, but most of the time with no success.

It is true that the words respect, excellence, and friendship do not really say much at first sight—especially at a period of economic and social crisis when there’s a huge controversy over sport due to negative phenomena associated to it. During a time of corruption, austerity, and unemployment, people are doubtful towards the Olympics and unhappy with the unreasonably high amounts of money and benefits Olympians receive. They constantly question the cleanliness of Olympians and the openness of the competitions.

However, how do we define an Olympian? They say that an Olympian is an athlete who has won the Olympics. I disagree. An Olympian for me is the athlete who would not cheat to win. An Olympian is the athlete who takes pleasure in participating no matter what the result is. An Olympian is the athlete who will consider his opponents as friends and will accept his defeat and shake the winner’s hand; an Olympian is the athlete who will try to inspire with his example.

An Olympian, though, can also be any individual that works hard to materialise his dreams. An Olympian is anyone who chooses to be honest and who has the power to forgive and forget. An Olympian is tolerant and receptive towards different thoughts and ideas and is always there to help and support. An Olympian is anyone who finds the power to stand up to difficulties and does not give up. An Olympian is anyone who makes someone’s world a better place, and an Olympian is anyone who tells us “have a good day” and means it. An Olympian could be the person next door!

They say, “Charity begins at home.” I would say, “Olympism begins at home.” Olympism is indeed a philosophy of life, and if every individual tries to incorporate it in his or her everyday life, if everyone respects others, strives for excellence without hurting others, and is friendly towards others, this world can be a better place.
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