Ziyanda Stuurman (South Africa) on Using Olympic Values to Promote Excellence in Personal and Communal Pursuits

July 9, 2012

My interpretation of the Olympic values of respect, friendship, and excellence is that they are in fact intertwined. I see respect as the foundational value of every relationship in the world, especially friendship, and through that mutual understanding and recognition of each other’s humanity, not just the individual but the collective can achieve excellence.
Growing up in a small town in a very interesting country that really punches above its weight, I have come to value the support and encouragement of my fellow students, South Africans, and young people in general. I have always been involved in activities outside of the classroom because I firmly believe we all have something much more to learn from the world than what is written in books; we have to live in it every day. In high school, this philosophy fuelled my dedication to the sport of drum majorettes, something I always found to be a fantastic mix of cultural activities and sporting excellence. Not only did I fall in love with the sport immediately, I soon saw the potential it had for not only bringing my team together, but my community.

Through the mentorship of previously disadvantaged schools in the areas surrounding my hometown of George, our school’s drum majorette mentorship program brought hundreds of young girls together on Saturday afternoons to learn new skills from each other, but more importantly to share our lives with one another. In a very short period of time, I saw just how valuable those Saturday afternoons became to me as well as to the young girls I helped mentor. I was fortunate to have parents who could afford me the opportunity to go to a well-resourced school and to interact with children from other races, backgrounds, and cultures, but so many of these young girls, some of them my peers, did not. Many of my own classmates had never had an opportunity to give back to our community whilst also learning something new about themselves and our country.

I believe that this is where the interaction between all three of the Olympic values comes into play: creating bonds between communities and young people to build the future. This is what the future of our global community needs: a generation of global citizens who not only want to achieve excellence for themselves, but know that it cannot be realized without the help of their fellow man. And that is my proposal for the realization of the Olympic values in the twenty-first century. It might seem a little clichéd and even a little small-scale but the sharing of life experiences, the sharing of knowledge and skills and indeed the creation of new friendships, bonds, and the communal endeavour for excellence is where the answer lies.

Whether it is drum majorette teams, cricket teams, swimming lessons, violin lessons, or drama classes, we can all give back to our communities, and we should teach our children to do the same from a very young age. It is not about upliftment, it is about equipping our peers with the knowledge that the answer to the challenges they face, and indeed those we face as the world, will come from within.

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