In politics, we study something known as the Democratic Peace Thesis, which argues that democracies rarely, if ever go to war with each other. As though democracy is the one thing that civilizes the world and prevents it from war. In these hard times, never before seen by a member of my generation where political partisanship and rhetorical dragonisim is more important than compromise and working together to find a solution to the world’s problems, how are the people of the world supposed to unite to deal with the issues confronting the world, a hope that was all too alive, a few short years ago. I sit before you today fearful that my generation will slip into doubt, cynicism and outright misery, if we as people do not find a way to stop savaging each other, both rhetorically and physically and come together. I feel that sports has that unifying power to bring everyone together under a unified banner of peace, dignity, pride for country, and basic human respect. Therefore, I’d like to forward an Olympic Peace Theory.
There may be no more beautiful sight in the world of sports than the opening ceremonies of an Olympic games as the athletes from each country are introduced to a worldwide audience. Even if a country only has a handful of athletes, they are introduced like the heroes they often are back in their homelands. There’s a steely faced pride as the athletes file into the stadium walking behind the flag of their country, knowing that they get to represent that country to the entire world. Several of these countries are not exactly known for images that would inspire great pride in a country: civil war, distorted bodies with protruding ribs from hunger and disease, and political repression from regimes who refuse to give people the right to what Americans consider basic human dignity. If only for the most fleeting of moments though, these athletes bring pride to their nation and just maybe offer hope to the people of their nation that there is hope, even when everything around them appears hopeless.
Then comes the actual competition. It is human nature to want to give the best effort, even if that effort ends up twentieth place in super combined ice fishing. Yeah every athlete would love to win an Olympic medal and hear their countries national anthem playing through the stadium as they receive their medal. For many though, the journey itself has been so hard that just competing is a victory in itself. It is within these stories that their exists a common thread of humanity that unifies us. Most everyone can relate to loss, struggle, and sacrifice that comes with being an Olympian, (although maybe not on that scale) because they too have sacrificed things to achieve the things that drive them in this world. Take for example, an immigrant to America who struggled for years building a business, they may not be millionaires, but that business is everything they have and their proud of it. Therefore, on a basic human level they can understand an Olympians sacrifice.
Then come the closing ceremonies, which induced about a days worth of tears after the Vancouver Games in 2010 because the great event of human togetherness and solidarity had ended for and wouldn’t come again until 2012. In this world, so much divides us political parties, religion, languages, cultures, etc. that we need all the togetherness we can get. In those two weeks, we are not Americans, British, German, Russian, or whatever, but part of a global community paying tribute and respect to the highest exploits of human achievement. Of course, there’s national pride involved, but in most cases that national pride is weaved into a coherent tapestry of the human spirit overcoming the obstacles of a sometimes cruel world to achieve greatness, if only for a moment.