The Olympic spirit

Who said this about the Olympics?

The sportive, knightly battle awakens the best human characteristics. It doesn’t separate, but unites the combatants in understanding and respect. It also helps to connect the countries in the spirit of peace. That’s why the Olympic Flame should never die.

None other than that icon of world peace, Adolf Hitler. The next two scheduled games, 1940 and 1944, were cancelled while he extended the “spirit of peace” around the globe.

The Nazis hijacked the 1936 Olympic Games as a massive PR exercise. The torch relay doesn’t date back to ancient Greece at all. It originates from Nazi pageantry — introduced by them in 1936 in an attempt to draw a connection between ancient Greek civilization and the Third Reich. The 1936 medal count illustrates their success in whipping up nationalistic fervor.

1936 Olympics Medal Count

Source: Wikipedia

Other countries have since attempted to emulate the Nazi feat, pouring millions of dollars into sports development in the hope of improving their medal tally. The medal count, given such prominence by international media, goes against the spirit of the ancient Olympiads, whose focus was on athletes competing against other athletes. Countries competing against each other evokes the exact opposite of the spirit of peace.

In addition, we have commercial sponsors attempting to align themselves with the Olympic Games. Will Anderson, host of Gruen Sweat, a four-part ABC series, sums this up:

The London 2012 Olympics — where the world’s most competitive brands come together to fight for glory and gold — mostly gold …… The orgy of selling starts before the games even begin.

The spirit of the games was expressed by Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics:

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part;
the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.

To find the true spirit of the Olympics, look no further than the athletes. Not the medal count or the sponsors.

In every act observe the things which come first and those which follow….
If you do not, at first you will approach it with alacrity….
but afterward you will be ashamed.
A man wishes to conquer the Olympic games….
But observe the things which come first and the things which follow….
You must do everything according to the rule:
eat according to strict orders,
abstain from delicacies,
exercise yourself at appointed times, in heat and cold,
you must not drink cold water,
nor wine as you choose….
And sometimes you will strain the hand,
put the ankle out of joint,
swallow much dust,
sometimes be flogged,
and after all this be defeated.
When you have considered all this,
if you still choose, go to the contest.
If you do not — you will behave like children,
who at one time play as wrestlers, another time as flute players….
but with your whole soul you will be nothing at all.

~ Greek sage and Stoic philosopher Epictetus (AD 55 – AD 135)