3 reasons we love the Olympics

As the London 2012 Closing Ceremony is finishing off I am reminded that I don’t get up early for any other sporting event.  In fact most of the people I mix with either don’t talk about any sport or they only talk about football, except during the Olympic.  Over the weekend I had conversations with people about almost every Olympic sport, yes even rhythmic gymnastics and nobody talks about that ever.  So why is it that every four years we become sports fans and then crawl back into normal life for another four years?  Nobody will be getting up early to watch Sally Pearson in three weeks time to run at her next athletics meet.

Here are three reasons that people love the Olympics:

  1. We celebrate success – lets face it, we love people who are successful.  In Australia we like to cut the tall poppies down to size but deep down we celebrate that they were successful to begin with.  Perhaps it is our own desire for success that leads us to celebrate the success of others.  We love to cheer on someone who has trained so hard as they put in that last effort to try for Gold.  It seems that we love that someone who we don’t know, but is from our country, has been successful.
  2. We see the Olympics as pure – we love that the Olympians take an oath, we love that the athletes are encouraged to try their best, we know that sponsorship is removed from clothing and the officials do their best to eliminate drugs in the sport.  Whilst the games are not pure, we like to think they are.  The athletes take the same oath if they are million dollar professional or sacrificing everything just to compete.  This year several athletes got huge applause for giving it a go as they were from countries with only a few athletes and very little chance of making the finals.  Deep down we love the idea that the Olympics is seen to be sport stripped downed to its essence.
  3. We like the bigger story – we love that the Olympics is part of a bigger story that has happened over the decades.  The athletes in London 2012 took the same oath that athletes took after each World War.  The Olympics has been in boom times and in times of depression, the Games must go on.  Yet it is not just about the events because sport goes on every year.  It might be that there are people from 208 countries represented even if the government don’t see eye to eye on every issue.  It is the fact that we learn about the Olympics at school then past it onto our children and maybe inspire them to do something great with their life.  The Olympics becomes more than sport, it reminds us of the bigger global picture.

In some way the Olympics is more than just a sporting event.  The Stadium that was packed with spectators to watch the 10 heats of some athletics event this week will be empty next week.  It seems we can focus our attention at this time but we can’t live like that for ever.  We celebrate the high points because we don’t have to always live at that level.

 Without wanting to sound too much like I have the rose-coloured glasses on, I do realise that there are three reasons why people don’t watch the Olympics:

  1. They don’t like sport – not everyone likes sport, some people can’t even fake that they are an expert sports commentator for 16 days.
  2. They have other things to do – sometimes life is busy and we are just too busy to notice, good on those people who are working hard.
  3. They are reminded of their own lost dreams – it is sad to hear when people avoid the Olympics because it reminds them they haven’t achieved their dreams.  It isn’t always about sport either, some people just realise their life hasn’t turned out how they hoped.  It is saddest because they can’t celebrate the success of others.

That is my thoughts as the Olympics wraps up.  Whilst I may have appeared to be an expert on swimming, sailing, cycling or athletics for the past 16 days, I will return to being the novice I really am.  I won’t watch Sally in three weeks and I won’t care about diving, gymnastics, sailing or badminton any longer.  But I will take an interest in the success of others because if the Olympics has taught me anything it is that we must celebrate the success of others and not always focus on ourselves.

If you are wondering why this topic might appear on the Mark of Faith blog about faith, ministry and leaders look at the three reasons mentioned above.  We like our church to be successful, we like to see our theology as pure and we are part of God’s bigger story.

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Should the 2012 Olympics be a wake up call for young people in Australia?

Looking through the newspapers on the weekend highlighted that many sport commentators are questioning the condition of the Australian Olympic team.  But it was the comments about the “Gen Y” training style from Eddie McQuire, Shane Gould and Suzie O’Neil that drew my attention.  Their thoughts about the swim team that indicated that the tough training schedule of previous generations had been relaxed to suit the Gen Y culture.  There were several other writers who commented about how distracting it was for athletes to engagement with Social Networking.  At least from the number of medals won it hasn’t paid off.

It seems that many of the successful countries in these Olympics have not given in to “Gen Y culture” in their training techniques.  Whilst many people question the “medal factories” in China, countries like Great Britain and the USA still demand a lot from their athletes even if they are Gen Y.  There are even some commentators who point out that Australia Gen Y athletes have only grown up in  the super investment period leading up to the Sydney Olympics.  The reality is that the funding is drying up or at least slowed down in many sports.  Whilst the Australian athletes are doing their very best, there isn’t a Gold medal for everyone at the Olympics.

Whilst the articles in the weekend paper were focused on sport, the reality is that the globally trend of young people having the pick of jobs is over.  In his book “Generation Y” Peter Sheahan believed that Gen Y had forever changed the corporate culture, yet the bubble may have burst due to the economic downturn.  In many countries, perhaps except Australia, youth unemployment has gone back to  at least 20%-30% which means young people can’t be as picky with where they work.  Young people are again having to take work where and when they can get it rather than choosing where they feel like working.    The dominance bubble that Gen Y and Youth Culture have had over the past 10 years may burst with the reality of economic crisis.

The wake up call is out there for young people, particularly in Australia, now that the choices are shrinking.  In the economic boom Gen Y were able to buy everything they wanted, travel where ever they wanted and work where ever they wanted.  During the sporting life of Gen Y Olympians there has been a boost in funding ever since 1996 in the lead up to Sydney 2000.  Talk to a Gen Y Australian and they will tell you about where they want to work and what they want to do with their life.  Talk to a Gen Y from Ireland, Greece, Portugal or Spain and they are just trying to find a job.   My own hope is that it should be a balance of young people having options and young people having to earn their way to the top rather than have it handed to them.

This is not meant to be a beat up on our Olympic team or on young people in general.  It just seems from observing the media on the weekend the landscape that young people are facing globally has changed and our young people have been sheltered from it because our economy is doing so well.  It also seems that whilst young people may be natives in the technology landscape they are unaware of how distracting social networking can be to achieving in life.  It seems that there are some important lessons for young people to learn from the experience of Gen Y athletes at these 2012 Olympic games.

What are your thoughts?  Please share a comment below.

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