Three Olympic values understood in any language

Friday, August 10, 2012

By Alana Christensen of The Reporters' Academy

"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."

This is what the Olympic Creed tells the athletes about the Olympics, what values it holds, what should be displayed and what it should mean.

Although this statement was made in 1908, it remains relevant today and is reinforced by the three values for the modern Olympics – respect, excellence and friendship

These three values are constantly displayed throughout the Olympics, both on and off the field, and these qualities remain the cornerstone of the Olympic movement.

Although these athletes come from different countries, cultures and religions, sport and the Olympics give them a chance to connect and bond and provide them with an opportunity to make new friends.

For South African hockey player Lisa-Marie Deetlefs, friendship is one of the most important values of the Olympics.

“For me personally, I think the friendship one is a big one,” said Deetlefs, “my teammates firstly are some of my best friends and then other teams we make new friends.”

The days, months and years of training and hard work that is needed for the Olympics has bonded many teams together, competitors become friends off the field and competition on the field.

Living in such close quarters it is inevitable that friendship would become on of the strongest values displayed at the Games.

In life and especially in the Olympics, both respect and friendship go hand in hand.

In the Olympics respect must not only include teammates, but also opponents and those from other countries. Respect is a broad term, but it exists at the heart of the Olympics, it’s an important part of how the Olympics are carried out.

Australian boxer Jeff Horn sees this as a major part of the sport in the boxing ring; ”guys picking each other up off the floor mid fight when they’ve fallen over” shows the respect between competitors, according to Horn.

It’s acts such as these that illustrate the strong theme of respect throughout the Olympics. Athletes that had seconds before been fighting tooth and nail to defeat their opponent seconds later turn to help them.

Whether the competitors are friends, enemies or rivals, respect both on and off the field is essential.

Although some in the general public may debate the existence of such respect between athletes, South African hockey player Bernadette Coston explains that “playing against all these teams, the respect between the teams is awesome”.

All athletes, teams and countries know the commitment and time it takes to make it to the Olympics. Although each athlete is different, they’ve all had the same aim and dream, to make it to the Olympics.

It is as a result of this that respect between athletes is so strong. They have been through the struggles, the injuries, they feel as though they know their opponent, as if they have lived like them, it is no wonder that respect has such a strong presence at the Olympics.

Respect comes from the way these athletes compete, the way they conduct themselves. It is about how they compete in their events and how they treat the others that compete with them.

As the coach of Brazilian sailor Bruno Fontes, Fernando Pasqualin explains that athletes must “compete with honesty and sportsmanship and respect (for) your opponents”.

This is the essential point of the Olympics, a fair and honest competition where people from all over the world compete to their best and make new friends.

Athletes come to the Olympics to compete at their optimum, to achieve greatness and to be great. They aim to be the best, to run further, throw farther and shoot better. All athletes aim for excellence.

Despite the hours of training, the commitment, the sweat and the tears, some don’t achieve international excellence, but rather personal excellence.

In the end, regardless of all the time put in, as Pasqualin points out, all an athlete can do is their best. Whether their best is a world record, a national record or a personal best, it’s their own piece of excellence.

As the Olympic Creed so eloquently puts it, it’s not about the win but rather the experience and the ability to take part in such an international and monumental event. 

London 2012 will be remembered as an amazing Olympic Games, but also a Games full of respect, friendship and hundreds of excellent results.

It will be remembered as a Games where the Olympic values were on full show and where the world came together in sport and celebration.