This I Believe
I believe in peace through sport and the philosophy of the worldwide Olympic Movement. In 1989, I was hired to write the bid books for Atlanta’s campaign for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. In the Olympic library in Lausanne, Switzerland, I discovered that the Olympic Games were more than the world’s greatest sporting event, they were in fact only the most visible expression of a worldwide movement that seeks to instill the values of human excellence, mutual respect, friendship on the field of play and peace through sport in the hearts and minds of millions of young people in more than 200 countries 365 days a year. In the Olympic Movement, I saw distinct parallels to the goals of the Civil Rights Movement. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the French educational reformer who founded the modern Olympic Games in 1894, foreshadowed the ideals of Martin Luther King Jr. when he said, “We shall not have peace until the prejudices which now separate the different nations shall have been outlived. To attain this end, what better means than to bring the youth of all countries periodically together for amicable trials of muscular strength and agility.” Some people laugh when I say that peace through sport can change our world. But after Atlanta won, I had the opportunity to help Istanbul bid for the 2000 Olympic Games. And while Sydney took the prize, I saw Muslims and Christians filled with a shared hope as they united in the quest to bring the youth of the world to Turkey. I saw the same dreams come to life in Stockholm, in Beijing, in Vancouver, in New York, and in Salzburg, working on successive Olympic bids with people from all walks of life who believed in the power of peace through sport. At the heart of sport, you find play. And in play, you find hope. My friend Johann Olav Koss, who won three gold medals in speed-skating at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics in his native Norway, carried the Olympic ideals down to Africa and into the camps where refugee children were suffering. And there on those dusty fields—in the concrete reality of a child’s need—he put play to work and watched it restore self esteem in the battered and bruised, watched it unleash a positive force in a negative world and build hope for a better tomorrow. At the Olympic Games, you can find friendships forming between people who would be adversaries in the political, religious or social realms. Palestinians and Israelis, North and South Koreans, Iranians and Americans discover common ground on the field of play. And right now, 400 million young people in China, the nation’s future leaders, are being taught the Olympic Ideals in the run up to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. I believe Olympic sport can serve as a platform to unite the world in friendship and peace. And I work toward that goal every day through another Olympic bid campaign. Nearly a century after Coubertin, then IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, summed up the work of the Olympic Movement by saying: “We pursue one ideal—that of bringing people together in peace, irrespective of race, religion and political convictions, for the benefit of mankind.” For our troubled world, that is a goal worthy of all admiration and faith.
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