I realise that for some of you the Olympic Games have represented something of a nightmare. Perhaps you hate sport and you’re getting it wall-to-wall and you can’t stand the disruption that it has caused in your journeys around London, or are simply fed up with all the hype that surrounds it. I hope you can bear with those of us that think it is all just fantastic.
Baron de Coubertin’s original idea was, of course, that sport could unite the world. He believed that competition in the Olympic spirit of peace would bring cultural understanding and make it less likely that people would want to fight each other. He was an educationalist, strongly influenced by Thomas Arnold and the reforms to education that he instituted at Rugby School. From this he took away a belief in the transforming power of sport. He held rather romantic ideas about the original Olympic Games and the Olympic truce that surrounded them and believed that this coming together of peoples from across the world could change the world forever.
Those of us that have lived through 3 months of adverts featuring every possible Olympic variation aimed at selling the sponsors’ products may feel that his ideals are not quite being pursued today. Some of these connections are pretty tenuous – my favourite being the one in which Michael Phelps, winner of 16 medals, claims that he has confidence to swim better because of the sham- poo he uses before he gets in the pool. If this were a text message I would have put a smiley face at this point!!
We have also suffered 40 years of drugs cheats (some of us can remember what East German shot putters looked like in the Seventies; like a cross between Les Dawson and Jabba the Hutt; and the men were no better). We have seen the terrorist atrocities of Munich and the political shenanigans of Moscow. We may feel that the Olympics is tainted. Yet there is something there that continues to inspire people.
De Coubertin introduced the official Olympic motto Citius, Altius, Fortius, which is Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger”. It has served as a rallying call to sports men and women to seek to excel. More informally de Coubertin also took some words from a sermon preached before the London Olympics of 1908 by the Bishop of Pennsylvania, who said: “The important thing in these Olympiads is not to win, but to take part.”
In fact this leads us to an amazing idea – maybe sport is not meant to be a matter of life or death; maybe it’s not meant to be the most important thing in the world – maybe it’s meant to be fun. We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of fun. Whilst there’s more to life than having fun; life without it is…well not much fun.
So it may be fun but it’s not going to transform the world. There is only one force that can do that – love. The Beatles were right to sing, ‘All you need is love’. The question is what is love? If only we could look at love and see it as it is best ex- pressed. If only there was some example of love in action, of its transforming power, of its ability to take lost and meaningless lives and invest them with purpose and hope and the ability to help others. If only.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
It is Jesus that shows us what love is and Jesus’ love is the only hope for changing the world. I hope you have fun this summer and I hope Jesus’ love spreads from you to everyone that you meet.
Yours in Christ