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With only a week until the start of the 2012 Olympic Games, London is in the final stages of preparing to welcome the world for the first time since the 1948 Games, in what will be, and is the greatest showcase of sports competition in the world. Yes, I said it. Bigger than the World Cup, Super Bowl, March Madness, UEFA Champions League Final, or any other any other major sporting event you want throw out there.
The history of the Olympic Games is simply fascinating. Do a Wikipedia search of the Olympics and you’ll uncover pages of information on everything from its Ancient Geek origin, to how the Games have evolved away from gender and race discrimination. There have been numerous boycotts, violence (most notably, the 1972 Games known as the Munich Massacre where eleven Israeli athletes were taken hostage and killed), controversy within the International Olympic Committee for bribery (IOC), and so many amazing sports moments (e.g., Miracle on Ice). Whether you love or hate the Olympics, one thing can’t be denied. No other sports competition has given us so many memorable moments, while spawning legitimate social and political change in the world.
But this article is not really about that. There are far more qualified people to talk about the politics (past and present) behind the Games. This is about how I feel the Olympics inspire, unite and bring hope to all of us.
HOW THE OLYMPICS INSPIRE…
When I started to think about writing this piece on the Olympics, the first thought that came to me was how each of us draw inspiration from the Games. For some, hearing the personal interest stories, where an athlete has overcome a significant personal hurdle to compete, resonates. For others, simply learning how much an amateur athlete has worked and sacrificed to become an Olympian is inspiring.
For me, it’s learning little things like the fact Saudi Arabia recently lifted their ban on allowing women to compete at the Olympics and will send two women athletes to London to compete. This will mark the first time in the history of the Olympics that every country competing will include female athletes.
Inspiration is what will spawn the next great athlete. It’s what will make some young woman in Saudi Arabia believe she can become an Olympian too. More than anything though, inspiration instills belief in all of us that we can achieve our goals and passions, no matter what obstacles are put in front of us.
HOW THE OLYMPICS UNITE…
Unlike any sporting competition, the Olympics have an innate way to bring together a country. We remember The Miracle on Ice, the epic 4×100 meter medley relay where the United States narrowly defeated France in 2008, the 1992 Dream Team, Michael Phelps’ record 14 gold medals, the Magnificent Seven (first ever gold medal for U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team), and the list goes on.
Over the next several weeks, the Olympics will be the talk around every water cooler at work, at the grocery store, gym and among your friends and family. We don’t know it yet, but we will be captivated by some amazing race or finish that will unite us Americans, even if it’s only temporary. And the same will happen is every participating country.
Every athlete competing, win or lose, will bring a sense of pride to their country. At its core, that’s what the Olympics are all about.
HOW THE OLYMPICS BRING HOPE…
Admittedly, this may be a bit of a stretch, but I believe the single greatest attribute of the Olympic Games is its ability to bring hope.
Hope that we, as one world, can continue to come together and put our differences aside in the name of friendly competition. Hope that through sports, we can begin to shave away barriers and our differences to make this world a better, safer place to live, learn, and grow. And hope that the IOC continues to disperse portions of its revenue derived from the Games to poorer nations in need.
Sports is the one commonality that we all share. Let’s build on that over the next few weeks and hope that’s the catalyst for greater opportunities for everyone/every country until the world meets again in Brazil in 2016.
I hope the 2012 Olympic Games in London are inspiring, uniting, and most of all enjoyable for you.
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