London 2012: Olympic spirit

”The Olympics are like the heralding of another possible world, the world of solidarity, in which humanity will live together like one great family.” The distinguished Brazilian writer, FREI BETTO, argues for a human-centred Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, which would demonstrate how the Brazilian people are assured of the basic rights of human beings such as food, health and education.


WHAT most impresses me about these 30th Olympic Games is the fraternization all the nations. More countries are represented in this sporting festivity than in the UN (204-193). And, for the first time, all the national Olympic committees sent athletes, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei.

In the London stadiums all political, economic, ideological, religious and ethnic differences and divergences have been left aside. In 29 disciplines of 26 sports Israel is placed with Iran, United States with Cuba, North Korea and South Korea.

The Games began in the Greek city of Olympia 4,500 years ago, as a religious ritual of tribute to the gods and to bolster peace between cities and the state. In the year 392 they were prohibited by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I. many centuries later, in 1896, they were reborn in Athens, which hosted the 1st Olympic Games of the modern era.

The Olympics are like the heralding of another possible world, the world of solidarity, in which humanity will live together like one great family. Within any family, people are different, possess distinct talents and aptitudes, but all have the same rights and opportunities. This is how the close to seven billion of us should live on this planet which occupies the third orbit of the solar system, and in which – it is said – there is intelligent life…

In the Olympics the fights among the 10,500 participants are solely sporting. In fact, the greatest fight is that of athletes with themselves, before the challenge of surpassing their own records within the disciplines.

In the competitions, there is no rancor or humiliation on the part of those defeated. What there is, is the joy and exultation of athletes and of countries winning gold medals, without that causing resentment in those who do not mount the podium.

Even so, all is not a bed of roses in the history of the modern Olympic Games. In 1936, Hitler’s Germany hosted the event, broadcast for the first time on television. And despite the Nazi exaltation of the alleged superiority of the Aryan race, it was African Americans who won gold medals in athletics; one of them, Jesse Owens, had four placed around his neck.

Hitler’s annoyance was placated by German athletes winning the largest number of gold medals, 33. The United States came second, with 24. The ceremony of lighting the Olympic torch was invented that year in Berlin.

A tragic moment also took place in Germany, in the 1972 Olympics. On September 5, terrorists from the Black September organization invaded the Olympic village and occupied the dormitories of the Israeli delegation. They threatened to execute one hostage every hour if 200 Arab prisoners were not released from Israeli prisons. The competitions were suspended to allow for negotiations and the IOC (International Olympic Committee) was considering canceling the event. The police intervened, leaving a total of 18 dead, among them 11 hostages, five terrorists, one police agent and a helicopter pilot.

Millions of people watch the Olympics opening ceremonies on television, for which each host country offers the best of its art for the inauguration. The British excelled, presenting a mixture of history, entertainment, humor, technology and music.

Blue National Health Service (NHS) at opening ceremony

What most caught my attention in this opening ceremony was the emphasis on the British health system (the NHS), equivalent to the Brazilian SUS, with the difference that the former is considered the best in the world.

In August of 2016, Brazil is to host the 31st Olympics. In London, President Dilma Rousseff promised that the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro would excel that of London. In other words, the competition for glamour has already begun… And Rousseff even made a choreography suggestion: a school of samba.

I sincerely hope that, in 2016, Brazil will exhibit to the world the best of its music, dance and special effects technology, but will also demonstrate how our people are assured of the three basic rights of human beings: food, health and education.

To this end, we have to begin by doubling, from now, investment in these areas. If we wish to surpass London, this has to be done not just in form but also in content.

Carlos Alberto Libânio Christo, O.P., better known as Frei Betto is a Brazilian writer and author of the novel “Gold Mine” (Rocco) among other works, political activist, liberation theologist and Dominican friar. He was imprisoned for four years by the military dictatorship for smuggling people out of Brazil.

Pie de foto:

During the Games any kind of conflict of another nature is displaced by fraternity and the Olympic spirit.

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