I believe in the true ideals of the Olympic games; the pursuit of excellence, giving it your all, living your passions and ultimately realizing your dreams.
In April of 2008 I was in Beijing, on a research trip, well aware that I would be returning in August for attendance at my fifth Summer Olympics. While in Beijing, the Olympic Torch relay was making its way to my home, the San Francisco Bay Area.
As I watched the Chinese controlled state television from my hotel room in Beijing, they barely covered any of the protests in relation to the torch relay. But I knew better, having seen the news about the protests in London, Paris and now near my home in the San Francisco Bay Area.
As the torch makes its way around the world, with protests everywhere except in China itself, calls for boycotting the Opening ceremonies have intensified. I wondered whether or not this was the right thing to do. Sports, the Olympics and all that they convey have been a way of life for me since before I can remember, but these protests made me pause and reflect on what the Olympics really mean.
I knew that in winning the right to host the Olympics, the Chinese leaders took a bold step in a positive direction, opening themselves up to criticism, so this was just part of the program right? I thought to myself, “Any country willing to host the Olympics knows what they are getting into and China was no exception.”
But I was at a crossroads. Should I boycott the opening ceremonies? Despite the fact that China hasn’t improved many areas of its human rights as hoped for by the IOC, they have opened up more to the west. Freedom of the press leading up to, during and after the Olympics remains to be seen but positive steps do show promise.
Despite all of this political uncertainty, the reflection intensified my belief in the Olympic spirit, one where the world comes together, all in one place, all in one time, in a peaceful demonstration of sports and friendship.
I returned to my belief that sports can bridge the cultural gaps between societies, especially the Summer Olympics. I experienced this many times, having attended the Summer Olympics as a spectator four times.
It strengthened by belief that the real benefit of the Olympics is not in the medal tallies for each individual or country, but in the dialogue between the world’s athletes and spectators and the friendships that will outlive the brief three weeks of the games. Much of that dialogue happens at or around the opening and closing ceremonies as the world comes together.
I believe that during the Olympics all people can experience the peace and harmony of a world not mired in politics, strife, and tragedy but instead a world full of hope, conviction and a sense of passion and purpose. This I believe is what the Olympics games are all about.
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