Paul Adepoju (Nigeria) on Haunting Shadows of Olympic Victory

July 30, 2012

1996, though it sounds way back, is forever fresh in my heart. I was just eleven but fed up with life after getting frustrated with the ills of military rule, unhappy with the spate of violence that enveloped my nation, and depressed by the bleak nature of the future. “I’ve had enough,” I told myself, but I could not decide on how to end it all.
But thanks to fate, the final soccer match of the Atlanta Olympic Games was not far away. “It will not hurt to watch,” I said to myself. So I sat with my family in front of our black-and-white television set. I watched as my fellow countrymen, who also contend with challenges similar to my own, sweated profusely, played with their colleagues of different races, survived the match, and clinched the gold medal for soccer—Africa’s first in the game. Their success became mine, and I got inspired to pursue excellence no matter the challenges or price tag.

It is clear that equality, inspiration, and excellence, in addition to other values, are not restricted to the Olympic Games; as a matter of fact, they are bigger than the Games and permeate every aspect of human endeavors. In our day-to-day lives, we contend with issues that sometimes make us feel unworthy of excellence and unequal with others. We are also torn between making new friends in tricky situations and staying all by ourselves in fear of getting hurt. Furthermore, respecting ourselves and others becomes more taxing in this age where conflicts and frictions proliferate. These necessitate the need for these Olympic values to be propagated and widely disseminated.

A good way to achieve these is to invoke the haunting shadows of past and current victories and to get people closer to the victors they love. Although not every country has Olympic gold medalists that can go around the nation to facilitate the realization of the Olympic values, individuals can be encouraged to identify local heroes and mentors to learn from and from whom they can obtain guidance and inspiration during their “down” moments.

Spreading the Olympic values is a good cause on its own—one that requires ambassadors and foot soldiers at all levels. There is inconsistent awareness globally of the values, which suggests the need for better avenues to disseminate information and greater citizen participation. Social media will be a great tool.

While a global initiative is a good idea, the Olympic committee of each nation can also be required to set up an active Olympic values committee for each nation. This committee will make it their duty to propagate Olympic values at all levels.

The twenty-first century is blessed with fresh innovations and opportunities that could swiftly get people informed and make them actively embrace the Olympic values. However, attention is needed to ensure that the right haunting shadows are invoked. Remembering 1996 does it for me all the time; people should be helped to identify theirs.
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