The Olympic Spirit

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Thank you, Japan

Despite all our troubles and recent tragedies, we should be grateful to Japan for holding the Olympics. The opening ceremony was the most humane start to any Olympics. It reminded us of the less fortunate as well as the many who help humanity. The Japan Olympics, held under the most extraordinary circumstances, personifies the first part of the Olympic spirit –inclusiveness. The Olympics are not really about particular athletes or countries; they are for all of humanity to celebrate.

Excellence

The Olympics are also about excellence. The fantastic achievements of the participants show us the great heights that humans are capable of reaching. These performances then inspire all of us to strive and do better in our daily lives.

Michael Phelps has a total of 28 medals, of which 23 are gold. Phelps dominated the swimming pool for many Olympics, and his work ethic encourages us all to focus on our tasks. Mark Spitz, himself a great swimmer and winner of seven gold medals in one Olympics, said of Phelps, “Epic. It goes to show you that not only is this guy the greatest swimmer of all time and the greatest Olympian of all time, but he’s also maybe the greatest athlete of all time. He’s the greatest racer who ever walked the planet.”

Hard work and persistence

The athletes also demonstrate that high achievements are a result of hard work and persistence. Forbes magazine says that for that one or two days in the Olympic stadium, Olympic athletes typically spend “four to eight years training.”

Olympians rarely take a holiday; their training is non-stop. However, Olympians plan their days so that they keep their minds as healthy as their bodies. This often means meditations, visualizations (where they go through their event in their minds), and a good night’s sleep.

Sportsmanship Fair Play

Finally, the Olympic spirit is all about fair play. It matters less who won but how each athlete participates and the kindness with which they did so.

Even in the dark days of Hitler and the 1936 Olympics, individuals stood up for what was right. Lutz Long was the German long jumper and in the lead. The African-American Jesse Owens had made mistakes in his first two jumps and was at risk of not qualifying for the final jumps. Despite Hitler’s terror, Long made friends with Owens and told him how to change his run-up. As a result, Owens improved his jump and won the gold medal. Long came second with a silver medal. 

In the Winter Olympics in Turin 2006, this Olympic spirit was shown shining brightly. In the women’s team sprint cross-country skiing final, the Canadian Sara Renner broke her ski pole and fell from first to fourth. Bjornar Haakensmoen, the coach of the Norwegian team, was nearby. He quickly came up to Renner and gave her his Norwegian team’s spare pole. This enabled the Canadians to finish second and pushed the Norwegian team to fourth and out of the medals.

Haakensmoen explained why he helped, saying, “The Olympic spirit is [what] we try to follow. Without that, we are in big trouble. If you win but don’t help somebody when you should have, what win is that?”

© Kaikhushru Taraporevala

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