The Olympic Game of Life. Reflections No 397, 18 July 2012
The Olympic Games are about to be declared open. The travelling Olympic Flame carried the length and breadth of England, Scotland and Wales; it is a symbol of freedom, enlightenment and a burning desire to achieve greatness in sport, in history, personal fulfilment and national pride. The Games inspire the Olympic Spirit whereby men and women rigorously train, condition their bodies and brains to endure pain, sacrifice, and discipline to achieve success. We admire them; they are examples of great courage and a strong human spirit and youth imitate them. We can only dream about reaching even a fraction of their healthy physical and mental strength and prowess. We cheer for them when they win, we cry with them when they lose; they embody our own hopes, desires, achievements and failings.
The Olympic Games and sports in general have, with a few exceptions, broken down racial barriers and have been a stage for the world to see that all men and women are deserving of equal rights, opportunity, recognition and they can, despite hardships achieve the greatest heights of mental and physical achievement. The Games promote the fun and exciting spirit of competition of one against another to prove who is the strongest, fastest, greatest, and most skilled at their chosen sport.
Their stressful striving is to win the prize, to stand on the podium and receive the medal, the applause and roar of adulation of the crowd and to shed a tear as winner or runner-up. To win fairly is the goal. Fame and fortune follow the winner even if it is only a fraction of a split second that decides who gets the gold medal. The Games can be seen too as an inspiration to better moral living through self-discipline, self-respect, sacrifice for a spiritual goal and life of virtue and goodness. We are challenged to live and win the game of life.
Striving for goodness and virtue can and will, lead us to live a moral, spiritual, disciplined life caring for and loving others. The gold and silver of the spiritual Olympics will be lasting friendship and unselfish love of the needy and the poor. St Paul made the metaphor in his writings.
It’s so easy to love when we are loved and cherished for ourselves. But to put others above ourselves and have the strength and courage to live for others without seeking gold or silver is to be truly heroic. It is a goal worth living and striving for. That’s the greatest prize of all and we can reach it by doing our best. The Olympic Games can inspire us to consider the lofty spiritual dimensions of life and the reality of earthly ones too.
The Olympic Games also extol the values of healthy living, being disease-free and happy; the value of life and fairness in competition. These high noble ideals have been tarnished by the crass human weakness of the love of money. Corporate sponsorship should be the kind that promotes the virtues of the games, a healthy sporting life and the healthy wholesome food and drinks that sustain, enhance and prolong life.
But alas it is not to be. The commercial sponsors are the junk-food juggernauts and they have captured the Games. In return for money, they have been given a monopoly to serve the greasy eatables that cause obesity, leading to diabetes, heart conditions, kidney and liver failure and a host of other preventable ailments that cost the health service billions annually.
The sugary chocolate of Kraft, fizzy drinks of Coca-Cola and greasy burgers and chips of McDonald’s will dominate the eatables on site. Despite London being the host, it is not British food companies that will feed the multitudes but American. Even the beer, Heineken, is Dutch-owned. The eatables and beverages will cost a lot. To associate these junk-foods with the Olympic ideal of a healthy life of fitness and vigour is a contradiction. The monopoly forbids competition, a policy that is against the very spirit of the Olympic ideals which are all about fair and friendly competition – talk about bad taste!
But we have free choice and in the Olympic spirit we can race for those healthy goals and strive for a life-style of moral goodness, physical exercise powered by healthy organic food. Now, let’s think, how could we make healthy Fair Trade dried mangos available to all?