Jan. 23 marked the 90th anniversary of the start of the Winter Olympics. In just over two weeks the 22nd Winter Olympiad will begin. Some of the world’s finest athletes have been in training for years to qualify for and compete in these games. People from all over the world will watch events on television or follow the results in the press. We’ll experience a jumble of thrilling emotions as we watch amazing athletes compete and as we see the results.
French aristocrat Baron Pierre de Coubertin began the modern Olympic movement in the last part of the 19th century. He admired the ideals of the ancient Greek games held in cities like Corinth, Delphi and Olympia, during which the Greeks observed a truce from all wars and athletes from all over the Greek world strove to do their best in honor of their gods to win nothing more than a crown of leaves.
The baron believed modern Olympic Games would be a force for national and international good, promoting harmony between social classes and international understanding leading to an increase of peace and a decrease of war. Those are all laudable goals; and no doubt the Olympic Games, summer and winter, have promoted international understanding and respect.
But the modern Olympic Games have also been hobbled and even stopped by wars and international confrontations.
The games were canceled in 1916 because of World War I, and the 1940 and 1944 games were canceled due to the Second World War. There have been many boycotts of the games by countries protesting actions of other governments. And the games have been bloodied—figuratively by doping and cheating scandals and literally by terrorism, like the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich games.
There are grave concerns about the safety of athletes and spectators in Sochi in southern Russia at this year’s winter games. Islamic jihadists from nearby Dagestan and Chechnya have promised terror attacks targeting the games; and the Russian government has prepared a force of 60,000 security personnel, that’s 26 for every athlete. We hope that all will go well and that these Winter Olympics will showcase the best of humanity.
From the colorful Parade of Nations at the opening to the drama of the closing ceremonies, athletes take pride in representing their nations. It is not uncommon to see athletes and spectators alike wiping their eyes as the victors mount the stands and hear the notes of their national anthem as their flag is hoisted above the crowds. But the true story of the Olympics is not measured in terms of national victories, but in the personal stories of triumph and tragedy as we learn of the sacrifices and struggles of the participants as they strive to become the best in the world. We find ourselves deeply moved by the personal stories of athletes who have overcome enormous struggles to become participants in this celebration of excellence.
But isn’t it a sad commentary that an international effort to promote excellence, sportsmanship, understanding, goodwill and peace should so often be threatened by the products of the dark side of human nature: lying, cheating, violence, murder? Whenever we see the best of humanity, the worst is never far behind. Why is that? And is there no solution?
The good news is that there is a solution to this conundrum, but it requires getting beyond human nature, that bittersweet mix of good and evil. That nature must be replaced by another that is only good, always benevolent, always kind to others. It requires a true transformation from the inside out. That’s not easy, but it is possible. And it can change the world.
Find out more about how human nature can change and how that will change the world. We’ll help you start here on this website.
For Life Hope & Truth, I’m Joel Meeker.