Monday, 7 April 2008

The Betrayal of the Olympic Spirit

If we want to be true to ourselves, we must admit that the modern aggressively commercialized Olympic Games have blatantly and in many different ways betrayed the beauty, the greatness and the trueness of the ancient Olympic Spirit. 

The fundamental principles of the Olympic Charter, i.e. “The preservation of human dignity” and “Respect for universal fundamental ethical principles” have been systematically violated. Never mind that every four years the awe-inspiring Olympic Anthem is performed in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, the authentic ancient Olympic Spirit is lost and needs an alarm for global ethical awakening in order to be revived…

Ironically, every time the Olympic Hymn is being sung, the immortal Spirit of the Father of beauty, of greatness and of truth is invited to descend and to reveal itself as lightning within the glory of the earth and of the sky, as the lyrics of the Anthem go. But, it is all in vain. The ancient Olympic Spirit will not turn up in such a hostile environment, such as mankind has sentenced its Home-Earth to be. Frankly speaking, it is doubtful if many people sincerely want the authentic Olympic Spirit to be around them.

Certainly, neither the profit-seeking host organizers nor the shrewd official sponsors of the Olympic Games would like to be illuminated and guided by its light. And of course, nor would the many lightly or heavily doped athletes want to be “checked” by the ancient Olympic spirit… Alas, while the Olympic champions at the ancient Panhellenic Games were happy and proud to be awarded with a wreath of laurel leaves, today’s athletes are primarily after big prize money, even at the cost of their own health and dignity. It is not solely their fault, though; it is the very structure of our modern culture to which the athletes, too, fall victims.

Regrettably, it is not only the cheating of many athletes, through the illegitimate use of anabolic steroids and other drugs for improving their performance, that betray the Olympic Spirit but also the international telecommunications’ wild competition over winning the Olympic broadcasting rights, and the aggressive marketing of giant sportswear brands with the exploitation and abuse of workers’ rights to which it results.

Furthermore the Olympic Spirit is betrayed by all those countries that are destroying the environment with their industries and otherwise, and those that are fuelling local wars and abusing human rights, not just during the sacred period of the Olympic Games, but habitually all the time. Indeed the true Olympic Spirit could and should inspire brotherhood, respect and noble rivalry among the peoples, values that promote world peace. Unfortunately, however, in spite of the worldwide fanciful celebration of the Olympics, we don’t see peace being established in every corner of the earth.

The Olympic bankruptcy is only natural, though, given the moral void of our materialistic civilization. The present-day adulterated Olympic spirit is all that our corrupt culture, a culture of aggressiveness, cheating, consumerism and hedonism, could produce. What more could we expect? How sad that the glorious Olympic flame that every four years is lit in ancient Olympia, the cradle of the Olympic Games, has not illuminated our civilization to a degree that wars and arms races would be redundant as unnecessary and old fashioned…

Once again, on March 24, 2008, at the Hera Temple of Ancient Olympia, Greece, the Olympic flame was ignited, according to the traditional sun-ray ceremony. In his speech, Liu Qi, president of the Organizing Committee for the Beijing Olympic Games, said among other things:

“Today, the Olympic flame, representing the transcendent human spirit, will be lit once again. Burning in the torch of the Beijing Olympic Games, the flame will travel over mountains and seas across the globe, our common homeland. The Olympic flame will radiate light and happiness, peace and friendship, and hope and dreams to the people of China and the whole world. Its rays will light up the starry skies during the Beijing Olympic Games.” 

I must confess that these words sent shivers up my spine, as I was saying “Amen” to Liu Qi’s noble wishes.
Unfortunately, during the speech of Liu Qi, the Beijing Olympics’ flame-lighting ceremony was disrupted by three angry protesters from the Paris-based “Reporters Without Borders” unfurling a black banner on which the slogan, “Boycott the country that tramples on human rights” was written. The banner showed the Olympic rings as handcuffs!

“If the Olympic flame is sacred, human rights are even more so. We cannot let the Chinese government seize the Olympic flame, a symbol of peace, without denouncing the dramatic situation of human rights in China with less than five months to go to the start of the Olympic Games”, the group said in a statement. And they added “The treatment reserved in China for those who express themselves freely, the censorship imposed on the press and the news blackout in Tibet demand this sort of protest. All possible means must now be used to condemn the serious violations of basic freedoms in China. We will protest whenever we can.” 
The group also explained, “What we did was not intended to embarrass the Greek authorities.”

A few moments later, a Tibetan woman covered in fake blood, threw herself in front of a torch runner. The protesters were immediately seized by the security forces before being taken to a police station in Pyrgos.

What a sad and embarrassing incident! Of course human rights are sacred, and unfortunately they are violated not only in China but also, to a greater or lesser degree, in every part of the world, one way or another. However protesting about those rights in such an offensive manner during the most sacred hour of the Olympic flame-lighting ceremony is unacceptable to me, if not sacrilegious. Desecrating the symbol of international brotherhood and peace, as is the Olympic Flag, is an attack to peace itself. Abusing the five rings is an insult to the five continents they represent and to the idea of the universality of Olympic Movement.

I would like to close this article by quoting part of the Olympic Anthem that in my opinion sounds like a prayer and is inspiring and edifying:

“Ancient immortal Spirit, pure Fatherof beauty, of greatness and of truth,descend, reveal yourself as lightning herewithin the glory of your own earth and sky.
Plains, mountains and seas shine with youlike a white-and-purple great temple,and hurries at the temple here, your pilgrimevery nation, o ancient, immortal Spirit.”

May all the nations of this world, great and small, rich and poor, start embracing and demonstrating in words and deeds the true Olympic Spirit of greatness, truth and beauty. May this revival start during the summer 2008 from China, the great country that has also contributed much to human civilization.

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