Friday, August 13, 2004

It finally begins today; after all the waiting and preparation. Whether Athens, its venues and security are ready or not - the Games of the 2004 Summer Olympics will begin this evening with the always-spectacular Opening Ceremonies.

It was only a little over two years ago that I sat anxiously in a chilly stadium in Salt Lake City and warmly welcomed in the athletes from around the world in the Opening Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics. To this day, I remember the incredible sense of community I felt while sitting among the other 58,000 stadium spectators. We were all there for the same reason: to celebrate not only a personal sense of nationalism, but more importantly, to celebrate human achievement, regardless from what land the athlete originated.

When the tattered flag from the World Trade Center was ushered out for a brief memorial at that Opening Ceremony, the only sounds I heard from the immense gathering was muffled crying and sniffles. And again, there seem to be a tremendous collective sense of community felt by ourselves and those around us - many of which were not even from the United States.

Fast forward two years and we find ourselves at the very birthplace of the Olympics: Athens, Greece. We also find ourselves steeped in international concerns of terrorism, hate, bigotry, anger, pain, suffering and lack of understanding. And yes, the Games will not - nor were intended to - collectively heal these wounds and hurts. But the Games were designed to bring all of humanity together and to live out and instill 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."

And in this Creed, the struggle and fighting was never intended to and should not be amongst ourselves as a race. It is the struggle of the human condition and journey that we live collectively to advance - through these friendly and joyous Games. And the fight is not one against an external opponent, but against ourselves individually; to better the person we were yesterday into the person we dream to be tomorrow. To me, this is the heart of the Olympic Creed and Spirit. It is a spirit that would do well to serve as an example in our international political, cultural and economic arenas.

Let us pray that these Games will be a moment of peace and celebration during a time of international unrest and anger. May these Games raise the human spirit swifter, higher and stronger than it has ever been.

hoedl's haven
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