The already amazing city of London is now aglow with the beauty and pageantry of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Competitive Olympic fever is sweeping the globe. Online chatter – Facebook and Twitter – are blowing up with patriotic cheers for the “home teams”, small doses of trash talk and stories of amazing performances and lousy results, too.
I asked my friends what events they were most looking forward to watching over the next two weeks. As you might expect, swimming, diving, gymnastics and track and field took top votes. It’s funny though, because these are sports that barely see the light of day on American television. They surely don’t fill stadiums. There are a handful of competitions that are part of the summer games that you probably don’t even know about. Did you know trampoline – in addition to being a great work-out – is now an Olympic sport?
The Summer Olympics brings out national pride and homeland loyalty in a way nothing else really could. People celebrate their heritage and connect to their roots newly and profoundly. Yet, it doesn’t divide nations. It seems to provide a common experience that we can all celebrate.
I started to ponder (that would be my Olympic sport), what do those iconic rings have to do with this competition among nations? What are they meant to represent about the Olympics?
I know for me, when I see those rings I am inspired by the idea of “coming together” to celebrate extraordinary human achievement.
It seems that was the intention of the design. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) explains via Wiki Answers, “The five rings represent the five continents. They are interlaced to show the universality of Olympism and the meeting of the athletes of the whole world during the Olympic Games. On the Olympic flag, the rings appear on a white background. At least one of the colors of the rings, including the white background, can be found on the flag of every nation in the world.”
Baron Pierre de Coubertin designed the symbol and the flag. He was also the founder of the modern Olympic Movement. Coubertin has been quoted as saying, “The Olympic Games are the quadrennial celebration of the springtime of humanity.” And also, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”
The IOC defines “Olympism” with three core values: excellence, respect and friendship. The intent of Olympism, “to build a better world through sport.”
I think that’s why those rings resonate. They represent the pursuit and fulfillment of human potential, progress and unity. To see people, of all nations and tribes, giving all they have in pursuit of something so elusive, so challenging, almost impossible…well, it’s inspiring and life affirming.
Cheers to those athletes and their brave hearts. Go for the gold, but you are all champions to me.