I cannot explain why but I have always associated the Summer Olympic years with leap years. If there is a summer Olympic games then there is a 29th February that year. I guess the first year I was really aware of the Olympics was 1976 which was in Montreal, I was fascinated by many different sports shown on television. This was in the days before world championships and so it was often the only time in four years when the best contestants competed in the same competitions. There was controversy with the 1980 games in Moscow with sixty-six nations boycotting the games. In the following games in 1984, Los Angeles was boycotted by the Russians. In 1988 the games in Seoul were tainted by failed drug tests, 100m winner Ben John failed his drug test. As you can see there has been quite a lot of controversy!
The Covid 19 pandemic forced the postponement of the games last year and so we lose the connection to the leap years. The games are again proving to be very controversial. A recent poll in Japan suggests that seventy per cent of people want them cancelled because of a fear of a rise in Covid 19 cases. The International Olympic Committee is insisting that the safety measures will keep the athletes, visitors and Japanese public safe. There are also fears of high summer temperatures which could make Tokyo the hottest games on record, which also raises concern for athletes wellbeing. I think the games will go ahead and I hope the fears do not materialise and affect the games.
The controversy is a far cry from the Olympic creed.
“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. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well”
There is a sense that when we agree to do something or commit to an event, we should give it our best effort and do our best. By not giving our best or trying our hardest, we are visibly saying that we do not care. My mother used to say “Do it with good grace or don’t do at all”, that seems like sound advice.
The Bible uses images of participating in a race. Paul reminds the Corinthian church that the race of life (1 Corinthians 9 vs. 24-26) is about an imperishable prize, eternal life. Eternal life is a gift given to those who believe in Jesus, and so this makes us want to do our very best. The sense is that we should all enter, compete and be fully prepared for engaging in life. It is not the winning but participating that is important. Eternal life is open to all with God.
As we watch the Olympics and cheer on our favourites, let us also remember how hard the other competitors have worked in training. It is the same for God who sees all of our best efforts and encourages us to keep going and keep trying. It is taking part that really counts.
Rev. Martin Wood. The Rectory, Church Lane, Cheriton Bishop EX6 6HY 01647 24119 (Tuesday to Sunday) email@example.com