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How today’s Olympic Athletes Represent Ideals from the First Modern Games
Are you excited for the Olympic opening ceremonies tonight?
Over the next two weeks, records will be broken, medals will be won, and we will be awed by amazing feats of athleticism.
While not without controversy, the athletes competing at Rio 2016 embody the ideals laid out at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
Baron Pierre de Courbertin revived the Olympic Games in 1896 because “Modern athletics need to be unified and purified.”
Standardizing rules would “…put an end to the quarrels of amateurs, that they may be united among themselves, and willing to measure their skill in frequent international encounters.”
Courbertin felt the Games would encourage patriotism and peace.
“Each country will take its turn in organizing them. When they come to meet every four years in these contests, further ennobled by the memories of the past, athletes all over the world will learn to know one another better, to make mutual concessions, and to seek no other reward in the competition than the honor of the victory. One may be filled with desire to see the colors of one’s club or college triumph in a national meeting; but how much stronger is the feeling when the colors of one’s country are at stake.”…
“Should the institution prosper, - as I am persuaded, all civilized nations abiding, that it will, - it may be a potent, if indirect, factor in securing universal peace.”*
Since 1896, the Olympic Games have been interrupted by wars and politics but the ideals remain.
Echoing the desire for peace, basketball player Carmelo Anthony sees the Olympics as an opportunity to speak out about the violence plaguing communities in the U.S.
He writes in The Guardian:
“In three weeks I’ll travel to Rio with the United States’ Olympic team to perform on a global stage...For me, I do feel like this is a platform where we should – we as athletes, we as Americans – use it for something. Whether we make a statement out there or send a message, we can show the world that we’re united. Whatever way we want to do it, this is a chance to do something meaningful before an audience of billions. I don’t know what that something is yet, but we still have time to figure it out.”
Yursa Mardini is competing in Rio with the Refugee Olympic Team, under the Olympic flag. Mardini, a swimmer, fled Syria a year ago. She swam for her life across the Aegean Sea and journeyed through Europe to Berlin where she currently lives and trains.
At the Games, she wants to “show the world refugee is not a bad word.”
“My message at these Games is just, never give up.”**
Athletes like Carmelo Anthony and Yursa Mardini personify the spirit of the Olympic Games put forth by Baron Pierre de Courbertin as a “factor in securing universal peace.”
*de Coubertin, P. (1896, 11). THE OLYMPIC GAMES OF 1896. Century Illustrated Magazine (1881-1906), LIII, 39. Retrieved from https://www.proquest.com/docview/125518584?accountid=131239. American Periodicals Series III.
**Syrian Refugee Mardini Swims for Joy After Swimming for her Life.” https://www.olympic.org/news/syrian-refugee-mardini-rot-swims-for-joy-after-swimming-for-her-life