Olympism for the 21st Century: New Life to a Timeless Philosophy

Introduction

The Olympic Movement, sometimes referred to as Olympism, is a universal concept that is not defined simply. It is a philosophical ardor for life and the uncompromising pursuit of excellence. Just as individuals operate with a personal philosophy that guides their decision-making, Olympism, too, is philosophically directed through the elevated dimension of quality in how an individual conducts his/her life.

Olympism is an inner faith of a man in himself, a constant effort of physical and intellectual enhancement (Filaretos, 1993 p. 61). It is a general concept which emphasizes not only development of bodily strength, but generally healthier individuals with a happier attitude and a more peaceful vision of the world (The International Olympic Academy, 1997, p. 10). Olympism recognizes and extols individual effort and accepts no discrimination among nations, races, political systems, classes, etc. (The International Olympic Academy, p. 9). As we build awareness and highlight our commonality as human beings, we must realize we are all interconnected in this world. Though these connections are sometimes complex, elusive and difficult to recognize, examining our own patterns of behavior as world citizens will reduce our distance and allow us to find our common ground. All become part of the whole when members of nations learn about global perspectives and become familiar with national issues — this has been a long and historical pattern of the dynamics of relationships among many different people. The fact remains, Olympism involves not only active participants of the sport movement, but also the general public (The International Olympic Academy, p. 9). All people are relevant and interconnected among the diverse cultures of the world.

A Viewpoint on Olympism

The good intentions of Olympism are indeed well-established, but not necessarily well known. A prevailing challenge in today’s world is how to capture people’s attention long enough to convey important and life enhancing messages. Being the difficult job it is, merely sharing information only illustrates the size of the challenge it is to effectively educate people. Education takes quality time and the perception, too often, is that simply receiving information is the same as education. Education is the process of learning conceptual ideas that leads to behavioral awareness or change. A clear distinction needs to be understood on this matter; learning occurs only through practice. Our desire to educate young people regarding the values within the Olympic Movement runs deep and has long existed within a few select people all around the world. Accomplishing the goal of educating others about the Olympic Movement requires recognition of the major reorganization that must occur: 1) there must be an open willingness for revision of the Movement’s principles/values to be better understood in today’s reality; 2) we must package the valuable principles/values in numerous effective ways for appealing delivery; 3) advocates must first educate the deliverers (e.g., teachers, coaches, administrators, etc.) on the importance of the values within Olympism; 4) we must interrupt long existing educational patterns by convincing these systems to provide a window of opportunity for educational time to be devoted to the teaching of Olympism.; and 5) we should provide simulated, lifelike environments in which to apply the practice of the principles/values.

What is Valuable about Olympism Today?

Olympism encourages exploration of self and how self relates to community in a local sense. The smallest local actions accumulate and make an important global contribution. Also, Olympism is a tool that can better unify the people of the world. As experience is gained, the ability to see and think about the global picture becomes a natural outcome. Finally, everyone could be a role model to someone. If we have more people living with the concepts of Olympism in their daily lives, the philosophy will permeate our world at an exponential rate.The evolution of the principles of the Olympic Philosophy is essential. More importantly, there are necessary changes to be made in the moral standards and the values of people, their mentality and sentiments. The inherent values of Olympism that seem to have lost their meaning in our changing society must be identified and revised so that they match the continuous advancement of today’s world. People gain experience and perspective as they advance along the continuum of life. The birth of the Modem Olympic Games spawned a formal sporting event and the growth and change that has occurred from 1896 until today is almost immeasurable. As philosophy directs individual lives and the spirit of Olympism affects those lives around the globe, the common thread the two has is embedded in founding principles. These principles are anchoring and timeless values that have endured. From where or whom we are born, the principles of life that parents teach affect their children throughout their future. The Olympic Movement is much more than just the parent of the Modem Olympic Games, it is a choice that people can undertake by which to conduct their lives.

Gain More Widespread Respect For Olympism

To gain placement within an educational curriculum, the Olympic values must be progressive and command widespread public support and respect. For all of the positive stories that exist within the Olympic Movement, unfortunately, those stories told most frequently and with greatest sensationalism are the negative ones. Often this is said to sell more magazines, newspapers, to keep more television viewers, radio listeners, internet browsers, etc. Modem man is easily influenced by the somewhat contradictory information coming from a myriad of sources. This makes the individual lose his/her intellectual and spiritual independence and lowers the level of healthy self-analysis, which is imperative for self-improvement. Such an individual does not concentrate on the personal spiritual world; rather, he/she develops a tendency to suppress the thoughts and ideas that do not coincide with the interests of other people and society in general. The negative stories and constant reliance on other sources is in conflict with the development of a self-determined individual with unwavering moral standards. By the time an athlete becomes an Olympic-level performer, his/her character and value system has long been formed. In turn, these values are the reflection of the moral standards of society where the athlete has been raised. Reality shows that violence in sport and the use by top athletes of prohibited means of increasing their physical capacity are contradictory to the Olympic concepts of excellence and achievement. Contemporary competitive sport, with its emphasis on the materialistic benefits for individuals and societies, can create elite athletes with an individualistic, egocentric mentality and an excessively self-sufficient attitude (Dellamary, 1994, p. 210). So many adjunct sources contribute to the “win-at-all cost” acceptance of the Olympic Games, that the values of Olympism are often overlooked by the participants, spectators and organizers. It seems we espouse philosophical statements and then act contradictorily toward them. We most naturally reward the outcome rather than the process. Life’s journey is a process and cannot be ignored. The values of Olympism can be taught only through constant practice. Theory without practice is utopian. In Olympism, the principles and values that do not have a connection with an application to real life will not live long in people’s minds. When this connection is established, then Olympism will become not just a philosophy, but a beneficial lifestyle.

Improved Ways To Package The Message Of Olympism

Incorporating the values of Olympism into current curriculums and practices that develop athletes is better than to develop something entirely separate. This enhances the already existing curriculums and athletic practices and can contribute throughout the participation phase. Individuals must be practical and conceptual in the process of learning, understanding and most importantly, experiencing Olympic values. The worth of values is determined by their practice. That is why the education of Olympism should not be a promotion of statements; rather, it should teach the implementation of the values in life situations. Create ways to practice and reinforce these values; extend and apply them to today’s real life. Coaches are the instrumental and influential figures in the promotion of Olympism among young athletes. To develop a uniform and global reinforcement procedure has limited feasibility. It is best if the nations contribute within their cultural means and understanding of how to reach and reward their people in the best possible manner. An excellent program that is successfully operating to this end is the United States Olympic Committee’s Champions in Life program, which is targeted to include the disadvantaged children through youth recreational organizations. The program addresses the benefits of staying in school, staying drug-free, avoiding gangs and violence and being good citizens by being the best one can be. The concept of being a productive member of a society should be promoted as the prerequisite to being a good citizen of the world with global awareness. Sports, therefore, offer us a great opportunity to promote Olympic principles and values, but this opportunity is often under-utilized. Constant reminders of what we believe in are needed. Even simple things (T-shirts, pins, posters, banners, etc.) could have messages written in a simple but thought provoking and heart warming way. We should make a point to devote a few minutes at sporting events to recognizing our belief in the importance of Olympic values (messages in game programs, banners in the gym, public address announcements, athlete or coach comments at the end of the competition, etc.). It could be a valuable contribution if famous athletes and coaches, in their interviews, would sincerely include their support of the Olympic Movement in their commentary.

Improved Ways To Deliver The Message Of Olympism

There are three necessary steps in promoting new concepts and values:

  1. Delivery of the message: the message must be clear, simple to understand and deliver the intended values through sport activities at different levels;
  2. Education and reinforcement of the message: the application process should have reinforcement so the message is taken seriously and the learner comprehends the merits of the message and accepts them as desirable guidelines; and
  3. Consistency which promotes the philosophy in all activities: continuous emphasis is a key to show how much the promoters care about their message.

This will require sincerity regarding why one is teaching/coaching and careful rationale as to what one is teaching/coaching. Concentrated educational experiences such as the International Olympic Academy are an effective model for delivery of Olympism as a valuable curriculum to study. The atmosphere and revered respect that the Olympic Movement is afforded changes lives and perspectives in a short amount of time. Undoubtedly, each and every individual who studies at Olympia becomes a lifetime activist for the movement. Disseminate teacher lesson plan guides beyond the formal educational system. Include children’s museums, national chain daycare centers, Girl and Boy Scouts and other youth organizations where quality children’s activities are valued and sought after. Incorporate the teaching of Olympism in the educational background of coaches.

These teachings must educate coaches how purposefully teaching about Olympic values will contribute to more balanced individual athletes and ignite their personal desire to find their own personal excellence and how Olympic values will strengthen and improve team interaction and success. Administrators, teachers and coaches should show personal interest and reward the adherence to the principles and make the experiences personal and valuable. There is a fine line between competition and cooperation — both are essential and the fine line must be identified and honored for sport to be optimized successfully as an asset to society. Today’s Olympic Movement must be challenged to assist with the removal of all barriers in allowing competitive excellence to be available to all. Sport within the Olympic Movement changes lives positively when performance excellence is sharply focused upon and established as a founding principle in life. When the fine line is blurred and disrespected to the point of allowing competition to be used only for personal gain (as in the pursuit of money or recognition), those driving pursuits are shallow and short-lived. They offer no lasting substance for a quality life from which our new generations will be born.

Suggestions For Gaining Educational Time

Traditions are a base for the formation of values. When people forget their traditions, they interrupt the connection between the past and the present and, as a result, lose the values. The revival of the traditions of Olympism will help to return the essence of the true values to our world.

Transcendence

Contemporary Olympism is influenced by the interaction of many factors that may cause its progressive decline (Dellamary, p. 209). There are two major threats that may prevent the progress of Olympism. They are excessive commercialism and the active involvement of governmental politics in sports (Filaretos, p. 61). The Olympic Movement will always be able to be improved. Implications for our Future Will teaching and thus interweaving these values into society uplift us and provide an eagle-eye view so that we may bring solutions to our varied world problems, which include: Asian economic instability, hyper-urbanization in Brazil, environmental degradation in China, civil war in Rawanda, starvation in North Korea, violence and drugs in the schools of the USA? Is Olympism powerful enough to make a difference to the even bigger issues in our world? Adherents of Olympism cannot influence the human tendency for violence, war, destruction and aggression among nations and groups. Advocates cannot stop economical and political changes of nations. They are helpless in the face of the commercialization of sports and the gigantism and luxury of the Olympic Gaines. But with all of their limits, they have a powerful instrument in their hands that can revive Olympism with its unique philosophy of ideal social coexistence. Only through the education of our youth and the establishment of high moral standards that unite the human race and disregard grounds for discrimination can the dissemination of a true universalization of Olympism become possible.


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