The modern Olympic Games : Relevance in the present society

Professor Dhaneshwar Moirangthem
The next Olympic Games, XXXII Olympiad, will be held in Tokyo, Japan from 23rd July to 8th August 2021. It was originally scheduled to be held in 2020, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been rescheduled to 2021. But it is still called the Tokyo Olympics 2020 for all its official purposes. There will be 339 events in 33 sports (50 disciplines) in the competition under the motto, ‘United by Emotion’. A few sports will be making their Olympic debuts – surfing, sports climbing, karate and skateboarding. The competition will also see return of baseball and softball for the first time since 2008. However, there is still a cloud of uncertainty looming large on the holding of the next Olympic games. We cannot help but wish that the Tokyo Olympics 2020 be held successfully.
This will be the second time Tokyo will be hosting the Games. In 1964, the Olympic Games was held for the first time in Asia when Japan hosted the Olympiad-XVII. The competition was held in 183 events in 19 sports (25 disciplines). It was a proud moment for the whole of Japan when the game ended successfully. Japan was the sports powerhouse in the whole of the Asian Continent besides being the emerging economic power post the second world war, which was demonstrated when they put up a strong competition to the mighty contingents of the United States and the then Soviet Union (USSR) by claiming the third spot in the Medals Table, just behind the two giant Nations. When the rest of the world was expecting the Japanese economic recovery, they were surprised by the pace of the development of Japan given the fact they were devastated during the 2nd world war, suffering two atomic bombings (Hiroshima, 6th August 1945, and Nagasaki, 9th August 1945).
Just like any other sport loving Nation, Japanese are also addicted to sports and physical health activities. They are also among the leading practitioners of Yoga. This is evident when they had been celebrating 10th October as a National Holiday as Health and Sports Day since 1966 until 1999. But why October 10 ? It was the day of inauguration of the Tokyo Olympics 1964. From 2000 onwards, however, the National Sports Day has been shifted to the second Monday of October each year. When Tokyo Olympics 2020 begin on 23rd July 2021, the National Sports Day is likely to be shifted to that day from 2022. On the National Sports Day, every school, every college, every locality, every town or city, all over Japan, irrespective of age and sex, observe the Sports Festival by indulging in various sports and health activities; very much similar to what we have here in our State during Yaoshang Sports Festival.
China and South Korea are the two other Asian Nations besides Japan who are leading in Sports. Japanese are identified with strong Nationalism, and their patriotism towards their motherland remained unparalleled. It was expressed in the words of the Hiroshima Pilot, referring to the deadly second World War, “Japanese will fight till the last man, the last woman and the last child”. Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr. of the United States Air Force was the pilot of the B-29 Superfortress known as the Enola Gay (named after his mother) when it dropped Little Boy (Uranium Bomb) in the heart of Hiroshima on the fateful morning (8:15 am local time) of 6th August 1945. The bombing killed about 80,000 people immediately and several thousands died later on. The Hiroshima A-Bomb Dome (iron and concrete structure of a building) still stands today in a damaged structure by the side of the Motoyasu River opposite the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park as a standing testimony to the atomic bombing. The Allied Forces dropped another bomb (nicknamed Fat Man, a Plutonium Bomb) on Nagasaki on 9th August 1945, and the Japanese Imperial Army surrendered unconditionally to the Allied Forces on 15th August 1945. It is reported that many Japanese citizens who restrained  themselves from shedding tears at the suffering of the two atomic bombings wept inconsolably on hearing the news of the Japanese surrender. That was the unique Japanese pride. Having made a detour to the World War II, let us go to the First Olympic Games held in Athens in 1896 (6-15 April) under the aegis of International Olympic Committee (IOC). The formation of the first Olympic Committee on 23rd June 1894, two years before the Olympiad-I with Demetrios Vikelas (a Greek scholar) as the first President (1894-1896) was credited to the founding member Peirre de Coubertin, the French Educationist and Visionary. He was the President of IOC from 1896-1925 and is regarded as the Father of the Modern Olympic Games.
The philosophy behind the holding of the Olympic Games was to bring a world order free from chaos, devoid of enmity by befriending of Nations through games and sports and by inculcating the spirit of sportsmanship among the citizens of the world. Coubertin wrote, “Peace could be the product of only a better world, a better world could be brought about only by better individuals; and better individuals could be developed only by give and take, the buffeting and battering the stress and strain of fierce competition”.
The founders of Modern Olympic Games laid more emphasis on participation rather than winning medals as indicated in the Olympic Creed or the guiding principle of the Modern Olympic Games, which is a quote by Pierre de Coubertin; “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle”. This is in many ways similar to the centuries old teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu Holy book. In the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Lord Krishna tried to educate his close friend and disciple Arjuna about the life and death, birth and rebirth, and specially about performance of one’s assigned duties irrespective of the results. When Arjuna was confused and was about to abandon the fight and leave the battlefield, Lord Krishna exhorted him to perform his duties. He said, “You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities and never be attached to not doing your duty” – Text 47, Bhagavad Gita, as it is. ‘……. Arjuna was therefore, advised by the Lord to fight as a matter of duty without attachment to the result. His nonparticipation in the battle is another side of attachment. Such attachment never leads one to the path of salvation. Any attachment positive or negative, is cause to bondage. Inaction is sinful. Therefore, fighting as a matter of duty was the only auspicious path of salvation for Arjuna’, as purported by Shri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada on text 47, Bhagavad Gita as it is. The Lord continued, “Perform your duty equipoised, O Arjuna, abandoning all attachment to success or failure. Such equanimity is called Yoga”, Text 48, Bhagavad Gita, as it is.
Participation in any event is important. Without the participants, there will be no competitions and therefore no winners. (To be contd)