“The very word Olympics is, for me, a magnificent thrill, absolutely a universal thrill, and it raises the consciousness of humanity in the inner world. True, in the outer world we may notice some wrong forces, but in the inner world the Olympics is a great opportunity for the upliftment of human consciousness.
This world is full of sadness, sorrows, frustrations and depression, and so many unfriendly, hostile things happen. But in the Olympics at least we get the opportunity to meet together for a few weeks and create a oneness-world-family.”
- Sri Chinmoy [
As Sri Chinmoy mentions in the above quote, there is a spiritual dimension to the Olympics.
Carl Lewis at the 1984 Olympics. CC0
Higher, further and faster - This is the motto of the Olympics. It means that the Olympics offers the pinnacle of individual self-transcendence - the striving to exceed previous bests and go beyond the limitations of the mind and body. We get joy watching the Olympics, because we can feel a oneness with those athletes and sportsmen who have dedicated their time to pursuing their best efforts at self-transcendence. The Olympics reminds us of our own inner yearning to transcend and do better.
Breaking down barriers. The Olympics is a dynamic way to celebrate sporting achievement and international friendship. This wonderful ethos is explained by the great Emil Zatopek, who competed in the 1948 Olympics.
"For me, the 1948 Olympics was a liberation of the spirit. After all those dark days of the war, the bombing, the killing, the starvation, the revival of the Olympics was as if the sun had come out. I went into the Olympic Village in 1948 and suddenly there were no more frontiers, no more barriers. Just the people meeting together. It was wonderfully warm. Men and women who had lost five years of life were back again."
A Oneness-World. The Olympics is a rare occasion where 204 countries from around the world come together in a spirit of friendship and sporting endeavour; it is like a sporting United Nations. During the Olympics it is much easier to break down the barriers that often keep nations at loggerheads. Through sport, we can remember there is much more that unites us than divides us. The Olympic Rings: Source: DCMS CC BY 2.0
Fair-minded competition. Pierre de Coubertin the 'father of the modern Olympics' said that "the important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part; the important thing in life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
This is a lofty ideal. It is human nature to want to win, but also the Olympic spirit reminds us that winning is not the only goal of competition. The ideal is to feel oneness with the result - whatever the outcome. Sri Chinmoy writes:
"Who is the winner? Not he who wins, but he who has established his cheerful oneness with the result, which is an experience in the form of failure or success, a journey forward or a journey backward." [
There are many examples of the Olympic spirit in action. For example, General Patton competed in the modern pentathlon (1912) which in those days was only for military officers. He shot a bullseye which was not recorded by the judges. However he did not complain about the ruling, but took it in the spirit of detachment, saying “each man did his best and took what fortune sent them like a true soldier, and at the end we all felt more like good friends and comrades than rivals in a severe competition, yet this spirit of friendship in no manner detracted from the zeal with which all strove for success.”
Honest competition. The ideal of the Olympics holds that athletes must compete in clean and fair way - competing in a manner which you would expect from everyone else. Sadly, the spectre of drug taking still hangs over the Olympics, but the inner spirit of the Olympics teaches that if we learn to compete with honesty and sincerity, the joy will always be much greater than the false goal of winning at any cost.
Friendship. Another example of Olympic friendship helping to breaking down racial and national barriers was Jesse Owens brief friendship with German long jumper Luz Long at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Despite the prevailing political ideology of racial division, Long saw Owens as a fellow brother-competitor. Long offered Owens advice to help him jump further, and after finishing second behind Owens was the first to congratulate him. They posed together for photos and walked arm-in-arm to the dressing room. Owens later said, "It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler... You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't be a plating on the twenty-four karat friendship that I felt for Luz Long at that moment"
Another example of real friendship between fellow Olympic athletes is told by Sri Chinmoy here, about his athlete-friend Emil Zatopek:
“Through the expansion of his heart, Zatopek always wanted to give and get joy. There is a most significant incident involving Ron Clarke was such a great runner. He set so many world records, but never got any gold medals. Zatopek's sympathetic heart felt the sadness of Clarke's heart. So in secret he gave Ron Clarke one of his gold medals, putting it in the younger runner's suitcase while he was visiting him. When Clarke got home and opened his suitcase, to his wide surprise he found Zatopek's gold medal.” (view source at
Sri Chinmoy Library) More than sport
The Olympics is more than sport. It offers an opportunity for the whole community to participate in something worthwhile. There is a good documentary about “
One Night in 2012” ( link to BBC site) which tells how thousands of local volunteers took part in the opening Olympic ceremony in London in 2012.
The success of each Games comes from the involvement of ordinary people. It is an opportunity to showcase a country, and the spirit of ordinary people. It is also an opportunity for people to affirm their belief in creating a better world.
At the London Olympics, a brief ceremony during the games celebrated the Olympics, diversity and humanity's wish for Peace. It involved Olympic athletes, school children, local dignitaries and participants of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run. Among the speakers was Tegla Loroupe (pictured below) who in the 2016 Olympics is the head of a special team of refugees participating in the Olympics.
A Moment's Peace at 2012 London Olympics - a celebration of Olympics, diversity and humanity's wish for Peace. Photo: A.Zubaty
The joy of newness
2016 Olympic stadium. Photo Erica Ramalho/Portal da Copa/Março de 2013 CC BY 3.0
In 2016, the Olympics take place in Brazil, showcasing a new country who has not hosted the Olympics before. That is the nature of the Olympics: whatever outer difficulties there may be, there is always the scope for new inspiration and new good stories to emerge.