A festival of human talent, ability and effort
Over the next 15 days, thousands of very able and fine athletes from all over the world will compete against each other at the London Olympics. The Games opened yesterday with a spectacular celebration of British culture, watched by an estimated global audience of four billion people.
Malta’s flag-bearer at the opening ceremony of this primary international event, characterised by the spirit of the Olympic Charter and the Olympic Truce, was, once again, double trap shooter and medal hopeful William Chetcuti. He and the rest of Team Malta have their compatriots’ full support and encouragement.
The first Olympic Games were held in 776 BC at Olympia, Greece, in honour of Zeus. Greek city states gathered in one place. Wars were halted and people turned their attention to a different kind of battle – that for the best athletes in all of Greece.
Thus, the Olympic Games became the cornerstone of honour and unity.
The modern Olympics were organised to encourage world peace and friendship and to promote amateur athletes. “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,” Pierre de Coubertin, considered to be the founder of modern Olympic Games, once said.
The Olympic tradition today is spread worldwide. It includes over 200 countries. The Olympic flame burns bigger and brighter than ever, even if, despite the high ideals behind the Olympics, there are occasions where certain games or individual athletes end up at the centre of controversy and criticism.
The main focus, of course, is on the athletes themselves, their personal talents and the fruit of their highly disciplined exercises of the human body. Their achievements show how, through sports, a person can develop his/her physical faculties, such as strength, stamina and skill, all working together toward a harmony of movement and action.
Athletes do their utmost to attain physical excellence. They do so by means of indispensable training and regular practice. Their basic aim is usually perfection in a given event but also that of possibly breaking significant records. It is a phenomenon that may open up top athletes to significant psychological pressures as people, especially the young, tend to look up to them as heroes and human models who inspire ideals of life and action.
Prominent athletes are followed by many people who expect them to be outstanding figures not only in terms of athletic performances but also beyond the competition and sport field. Over and above their accomplishments of physical strength and endurance, they are also looked upon as examples of human virtue and uprightness.
Their accomplishments are further presented as primary evidence of the key dimension sports activity has in securing the right balance and total well-being of the person. Indeed, the athletes’ success stories can help people become more aware that the negative effects of poor physical activity can be addressed through appropriate forms of physical exercise that will help them restore a healthy balance of mind and body.
The Games go even further. Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI augured that the spirit of the Olympic Truce, the good that is generated by this international sporting event may bear fruit, promoting peace and reconciliation throughout the world.
His words surely reflect the sentiments of all people of goodwill who would like to see the event contributing to the harmonious development of the relations between human beings, whatever their nationality, ethnicity, social group, political or religious belief.