Rakib Mahmood (United States) on Spreading the Olympic Values in the Twenty-First Century

August 22, 2012

Since Pierre de Coubertin presented the Olympic flag, symbolizing the union of the five continents, at the Paris Congress, the world has seen two world wars, numerous other conflicts, an arms race threatening mass extinction, and growing disparity between rich and poor. The concept of a global game, however, was (and still is) a magnificent one—one that brings athletes from every corner of the world to a truly heterogeneous and harmonious congregation that transcends the petty politics between nations and advocates fair competition, free will, and the recognition of human effort and achievement.
The various socioeconomic disorders that prevail in the world today may be diametrically in contrast with the letter and spirit of the Olympic Movement that our forefathers envisioned, but all is not lost. The advent of technology has brought the world to a juncture where we are seeing ideas of change spreading and being consumed at lightning speed. We now have more forums, unions, and charitable initiatives than ever before that are focused on improving the socioeconomic indicators and promoting cross-border exchanges. The Olympic values of harmony, parity, and ethical action, if spread uniformly, can act as catalysts and supplement these initiatives by bringing about positive changes in people's lives across nation.

Not all the countries in the world are equally equipped to produce and groom comparable number of would-be Olympians because of their lack of infrastructure, funding, and other socioeconomic prerequisites. A Young Olympian Program that is geared towards scouting aspiring athletic talents and grooming and educating them throughout the Olympic life cycle could be a good way to support and complement less developed nations with their own effort to develop indigenous talents. These aspiring young Olympians can in turn spread the fundamental principles of the Olympic Movement through peer groups and act as role models in those segments where Olympism and its core values need to be practiced with greater intensity and wider reach.

In 1924, T.H. Somervell, along with his 21-member expeditionary team to Mount Everest, was awarded the Olympic gold medal. Besides being a mountaineer, Somervell was a polymath of exceptional talent—a musician, missionary, and a surgeon. This is an example of how the original idea of Olympism attempted to transcend the circle of athletic talents and reach a wider group of gifted individuals and acknowledge their accomplishments. An Olympic Outreach Program integrated into the educational system through the Boy Scout Movement or through an Olympic Fellowship Program can act as a platform to scout exceptional young talents in various fields outside of sports and athletics. By means of various initiatives such as cross-cultural exchanges and competitions, an Olympic Observer Program, and other innovative activities, these young Olympic Fellows can be given increased exposure in their respective fields, a global outlook, and an impetus to grow as future leaders practicing the Olympic values of harmony, peace, and mutual respect for others irrespective of their race, creed, religion, or national origin.
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