The modern Olympic Games : Relevance in the present society

Professor Dhaneshwar Moirangthem
Contd from previous issue
The world seemed to have accepted the view of the founding fathers as the Olympic movement grows over the years from strength to strength. In the 1st Olympiad, Athens 1896, only about a dozen Nations competed hardly on 43 events. But in 2016 Rio Olympics, as many as 207 countries participated in 306 events. In Tokyo Olympics 2020, there will be 339 events in 33 sports over 50 disciplines.
How much is the Olympic movement relevant in today’s world ? I feel it is quite relevant in the sense that it encourages fair play, fierce competitions and paves the way for long lasting friendships among the participants and participating Nations. Recently there was a news item stating, “Mirabai Chanu’s medal hopes swell after North Korea’s withdrawal from Tokyo Olympics”. In the article (attributed to PTI), it appeared that the coach was happy with the news of the North Korea withdrawal. If that was the case, I completely disagree with him, because it is against the spirit of Olympic Games. Getting a medal because an opponent withdraws is not something any athlete would want.
I feel there is something missing if I do not mention the Olympic Oath. At the start of the Olympics, every athlete promises to play fairly and obey all the Olympic rules. One athlete from the host country takes this oath at the opening ceremony on behalf of all the athletes. Holding a corner of the Olympic flag, the chosen athlete repeats the oath: “In the name of all the competitors, I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic games respecting and abiding by the rules that govern them, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and honour of our teams”. Written by Pierre de Coubertin, the athlete’s oath was first taken at the 1920 Antwerp Games in Belgium. In connection with the fair play, let me visit the reports of Berlin Games 1936 during Adolf Hitler’s Germany just before the 2nd world war. Politically the United States and Germany were on uncompromising terms and Hitler was boasting of his Aryan Supremacy theory. One American athlete, Jesse Owens (James Cleveland Owens) was about to be disqualified from his favourite Long Jump event because he had already committed two foot-faults in the qualifying round and had one last chance. Incidentally, Jesse Owens had an unexpected German fan named Luz Long who gave him a piece of advice on how to make the last jump without faulting. Jesse Owens heeded to his advice and was qualified in the last attempt. He went on to ultimately win the gold medal in the finals. It turned out that Luz Long (Carl Ludwig Long) was his nearest rival who ended with the Silver Medal. If Jesse Owens had been disqualified, the gold medal would have gone to Luz Long. From that moment they became good friends.  Long was genuinely happy that his friend Jesse Owens won the gold. In his memoirs, Jesse Owens called his friendship with Luz Long as a 24-carat friendship and regarded their friendship as his greatest Olympic prize. He quoted, “Medals are corroded but friendship gathers no dust”. Unfortunately, Luz Long died young at the age 30 during the World War II fighting for Germany. Jesse Owens is regarded as one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century for his 4 gold medals (track and field) in a single Olympic Games (Berlin- 100m, 200m, 100mx4, and long Jump), a record that stood unmatched for 48 years. It was broken only in 1984 Los Angeles Games, when another American Carl Lewis equalled the record by winning 4 golds exactly in the similar events. When people started comparing Carl Lewis with Jesse Owens, the great but humble athlete Carl Lewis admitted that Jesse Owens deserved more than he did.
Since the participants are young competitors from different parts of the world, the founding members of IOC appeared to address the youngsters with the Olympic Motto, ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’, (Latin) translated as ‘Faster, Higher and Stronger’. The Olympic Motto was proposed by Pierre de Coubertin and accepted by IOC in 1894. The motto urges the competitors to have the willingness to do better, the eagerness to achieve new goals, the preparedness to scale new heights. Even if you do not win a medal, if you improve your performance, it is more than an achievement. If you win a prize, you should try to better your performance next time. To be contd