Shivaank Rana (India) on How the Olympic Values of Friendship and Mutual Respect Translate into Everyday Life

July 3, 2012

The Olympic Games have a history of about twenty-eight hundred years. They first occurred near Mount Olympus in Greece in 778 B.C. in honour of the Greek God Zeus. Attracting athletes of different countries from all parts of the world, they are a symbol of international friendship and brotherhood. The Olympic symbol consists of five rings or circles linked together, representing five different continents—Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and America. The linking represents unity. Each athlete who takes part in the Games has to take an oath that he will respect and abide by the rules of the games.
This makes us ponder—what do Olympic values stand for? Are they just limited to being naturally talented and a good athlete? No.

Olympic values mean respect for one another, excellence in life, and friendship that binds people together! For a middle class Indian like me, Olympic values mean respecting all religions, Hinduism or Islam; nations, America or Pakistan; castes and individuals, from the rich businessman living in a posh colony, to the house maid who walks about 10 kilometers everyday to make ends meet. Excellence is in whatever field he or she chooses, be it sports or science! And last but not least, the value of friendship would bring together people from all castes and creeds and would also mean fair play and equal opportunities for all.

So how can these values be incorporated into people? The solution is simple: the field of sports, education, and culture! Sports themselves promote teamwork and bring together people from all backgrounds. It was ping-pong that brought together American and Chinese athletes, making them ignore the tension between their countries. And the main, and most important medium, is education. Educating people about other people and their beliefs would go a long way in promoting these values. It would make Olympism a way of life and not just a concept. The Indian culture itself promotes these values. We are taught from an early age to respect all individuals, be polite, and trust in friendship.

However, as all individuals are not so fortunate as to receive proper education, another way of reaching out to the people is through public initiatives. With the help of NGOs and government funding, under-privileged children can be taught Olympic values. Building sporting facilities in rural areas would incorporate these values through sports at the grassroots level and the change in attitude would be visible. As the respected Herb Elliot once said, “It is the inspiration of the Olympic Games that drives people not only to compete but to improve, and to bring lasting spiritual and moral benefits to the athlete and inspiration to those lucky enough to witness the athletic dedication.”

For a developing country like India, which is plagued by tension with its neighbours and problems such as corruption and violence, Olympism as a way of life would not only help it grow efficiently, but also make the life of its citizens better.
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