The Olympics Games are a gathering. The gathering of people, from around the world, in one place; the displaying of multiple colors that represent different countries; the adrenaline rushes that occupied our bodies due to the apprehension of us anticipating the athlete/s that represented our country win gold, has subsided. The London Olympic stadium is empty now, everyone has headed home. The games are over.
However, here are some questions I must ask. What is the purpose of the Olympic? Is it just a gathering of men and women who trained for years to compete against each other for the purpose of seeing who the best in their disciplines are? Is it just for capitalists to rain in millions of dollars after blocking out local entrepreneurs from cashing in on the flow of tourists? Or, is it an arena designed for countries (the Superpowers) to demonstrate their strength via human beings? Indeed, explicit from the London games, was the comparing of the London opening ceremonies with that of the Chinese’s (Beijing 2008). Mine (Democracy) vs. yours (Communism). Also the counting of the number of medals won by each country was what the media (CNN, MSNBC etc.) became occupied with. Is this what the Olympics are all about? Who wins what, and how much, or is there something greater about the Olympic than just individuals showing of their agility, their speed, and their strength etc.
The beginning of the Olympic Games is dated to 776 B.C. (Before the Common Era), in Greece. The games were held in honor of the god Zeus. It was a showground for the winner to confirm, his or her connection to the gods, the Olympians. Women raced, for instance, to win a position as the priestess of the goddess Hera, or to prove their worthiness to participate in temple rituals. In addition, the Olympics were used as an opportunity to spread the Greek Hellenistic culture. In essence, the Olympics, in its early Greek years, was a politically, as well as a religiously driven festival.
Today, however, these athletes participating in the games do not have to display their talents to validate their connection to gods or goddesses, nor do they compete to secure participating in temple rituals. Despite this, however, the politicizing of the Olympic Games remains today a reality. Over the years of the modern games, the world has witnessed, in the 1930s, for example, Nazi Germany’s use of this arena to promote its racist idea of Aryan superiority. Despite women participating in the early Greek games, it became a male dominated festival, women was deliberately restricted from participating. It was not until the 1900 games women were allowed to participate. This 2012 Olympic Games has seen countries, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei, that had prevented women from participating in the games lift their restriction; a step forward for women rights and human rights.
These truths may have been the last things on the minds of those who gather, in their homes or in the Olympic stadium, to view the games. Instead, focus may have been on how spectacular the opening ceremonies would have been; on the glitter, and the glamour of it all. Some spoke of how their soul was moved by the opening ceremonies and the pre-show. Others may have been interesting in the chiseled physiques of the male athletes’ and/or that of the well-formed females’.
I too enjoyed the games. I was moved by the spectacular displays of the opening ceremonies in London 2012 and also in the one held in Beijing 2008. Moreover, I admired and enjoyed the athletes displaying their incredible talents in these various disciplines. However, despite all of this, as I sat steering at my Tele, I could not help but feel that I, and the many other people around the world, were assembled, in person or via television, for one reason and one reason only; to reaffirm something greater – which is humanity, and this, I believe, is the real meaning of the Olympic Games. This is the message, I maintain, we should take away from the games. The message of Humanism. In fact, this very message is reaffirmed by the athletes themselves, via their camaraderie, and love they display towards each other despite the competition.
So, what does humanism mean? In essence, “It (humanism) is above all an affirmation of the greatest common value we human beings have: the desire to live with dignity, to be good” (p. xiii Epstein, Greg), and this desire to live with dignity and be good was fascinatingly on displayed during the London 2012 Olympic games via the action of our very own (Grenadian) Kirani James.
No doubt, Mr. James did himself and our country extremely proud, indeed; winning, for the country, its first Olympic medal; certainly an extraordinary achievement. It was a delight to witness this young 19-year-old man displayed such talent. Despite showing the emotional energy that came with achieving his goal, as all athletes does, Mr. James, however, did not just become lost in the moment of achieving the prize every competitor in the 400meters coveted, the gold medal. No! Mr. James remained abstemious, clear headed and instead stepped over, and congratulated by extending the warmth of love by embracing and shaking the hand of every one of the competitors. In fact, the humanistic gestures extended by Mr. James to the South African athlete, Oscar Pistorius – a double amputee – of, not only exchanging tag names with Pistorius, but also embracing the South African athlete and hailing him the motivator for Mr. James to continue on should certainly have a profound influence on the world; certainly, a display of the Olympic ideal.
Kirani James has reaffirmed to Grenada and the world the spirit of love; the essence of humanity. He has demonstrated the true essence of the human being; the drive to be good, the drive to love. He has reminded the world that we must embrace humanity – each other – regardless of differences. Furthermore, Mr. James has demonstrated that “we cannot afford to wait until tomorrow or until the next life to be good, because today – the short journey we get from birth to death, womb to tomb – is all we have” (p. xiii Epstein, Greg). Great job Kirani James! You deserve the Olympic Kotinos – the Olive Wreath – of humanity (the Kotinoswas made from olive lives from sacred olive trees grown near the temple of Zeusat Olympia which was used to crown Olympic winners in Greece). Thumbs up!