Jessie Bullock (United States) on Olympic Values in the 21st Century: Today’s Youth, Tomorrow’s World

July 20, 2012

1998. I was nine years old and destined to be the next Tara Lipinski. The graceful, spritely fifteen-year-old had filled my heart with national pride and provoked me to ask for figure skating lessons. While I never became Tara Lipinski 2.0, both her example and those of other role models consistently motivated me to make my best performances even better.
Now as a young adult, I hope that today’s youth are just as captivated by the spirit and joy that the Olympic Games represent. Today’s youth that enjoy the effort, lessons, and discipline of sport, dance, music, etc. will be the citizens of the twenty-first century that make current and past Olympians proud. I interpret the Olympic values of the twenty-first century as having two fundamental components: 1) rooted in the education and inclusion of youth, and 2) realized on two stages: national and international.

Firstly, I believe the longevity of the Olympic Movement is grounded in the education and inclusion of youth: those that learn the Olympic values will “pay it forward” and make future contributions to enrich sport, culture, politics, and daily life. The social responsibility and citizenship learned will persist throughout a child’s life. This begs the question: How can we teach them, then? I offer a proposal: through games and technology. How inspiring would it be for a young Usain Bolt fan to receive training tips, pre-meet strategies, and even “break a leg” messages from Bolt himself? Youth engagement can happen with just a little creativity on our part. I support The Olympic Athlete’s Hub, launched this year to increase interaction between athletes and fans, but I do not believe that it alone is enough. Creating an interactive youth engagement program utilizing mobile phones and technologies readily accessible to youth could expand the inclusiveness of Olympic value teachings across countries, languages, and socioeconomic divides (and be fun, too!).

Secondly, it is crucial that the Olympic values are communicated as both national and international values. Perhaps a “good role model” or “self-discipline” appears slightly different in the United Kingdom when compared to Japan, Ethiopia, Brazil, or the United States. However, the core ethical values are universal. The Olympic values can foster national pride and patriotism, and simultaneously help individuals realize they are a part of a larger global community. I am proud of the United States’ SportsUnited Program, a diplomacy program that relies on U.S. athletes to teach life skills. Additionally, I strive to learn how Olympians from other countries teach the same life skills in a different manner. Understanding the balance between national interpretation of values and fundamental universal values is crucial as globalization becomes omnipresent in the twenty-first century. There is an opportunity for the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Movement to create such a program that teaches today’s youth how to be citizens grounded in both their national values and the core international values.

The Olympic values can become contagious if we invoke our creativity, technology, and global youth. The use of play, games, and technology to teach both national and global values will give today’s youth the impetus to live the Olympic values in tomorrow’s world.
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