Kevin Huang (United States) on Diplomacy and Olympic Values

June 25, 2012

To understand the original intent of the Olympics, one must look to the Olympic values. The Olympic values prove that national pride and the distribution of medals is a minor piece of what the Olympics represent. On one hand, the Olympic values apply to the events themselves and are demonstrated by athletes’ sportsmanship. All athletes must maintain grace in either victory or defeat. But the Olympic values are a microcosm for a broader significance: they offer a foundation for diplomacy and international relations in the twenty-first century.
What is similar between the Olympic Games and diplomacy is the importance of respect, excellence, and friendship. When meeting at a negotiation table, countries acknowledge each other as equals; a relationship must be built to ensure compromise. Just as in the Olympics, there is no importance in “winning” the negotiation. Winning is not an Olympic value and is in fact irrelevant, for it implies that another party must lose. Instead, a negotiating process created with commonly understood rules and standards, regardless of the outcome, becomes the basis for a relationship and is itself a step towards international peace. So it is for sports: a sport with commonly agreed rules allows different countries to connect in an athletic capacity. The dichotomy of winners and losers of the Olympics is false; even in sports, all athletes are collaborators.

For eight years, I have dedicated myself to promoting the values of respect, excellence, and friendship through Model United Nations. We bring together thousands of delegates from around the world multiple times a year in order to negotiate resolutions to the world’s most pressing problems. At these conferences, delegates socialize outside of committee in order to develop real friendships that enhance the success of in-committee negotiations. The academic exercise is enhanced by the fact that delegates must represent the policy positions of nations to which they do not belong.

Harvard World Model United Nations, a conference which I staff, gathers delegates from more than 65 nations each year in a rotating location, offering financial aid to delegates from the poorest regions of the world. To combat the dichotomy between winners and losers, instead of ranking delegates’ performances as most conferences do, we select delegates for “Diplomacy Awards,” an expression of our interest in diplomacy instead of the successful achievement of policy positions.

My vision for World Model United Nations is to be truly representative of the entire world in the same way that the Olympics are and for every nation to send a delegation each year. There will be no progress if we cannot surmount the barriers and sit down at the negotiation table or the Olympic field. Such examples of global collaboration should not be limited to purely educational and athletic activities; the more global activities the world has, the better. If politicians undertook to create more opportunities for students around the world to interact in collaborative ways instead of purely competitive ones, then the Olympic values will have been successfully represented in the twenty-first century.
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