Oh the glorious Olympics! It seems like everyday since the Games began there has been some new ‘first’, some previous limitation or barrier broken through, left behind, gone beyond!
Almost daily there are new world records being established, and each breakthrough lifts all of us by showing the potential to surpass previously believed limits. And once a threshold has been crossed, there is only going forward to cross the next.
But there have been so many other breakthroughs as well:
- A so-called ‘age’ barrier, both young AND old – busted! On the young side of the age scale by gold medal winners gymnast Gabby Douglas (age 16) and swimmer Katie Ledeckey (age 15), all the way to the oldest competing Olympian, an equestrian from Japan, Hoketsu Hiroshi (age 71).
- Athletes overcoming what were believed to be insurmountable physical limitations, like South African Oscar Pistorious running the 400 meter semi-final race as the first double-amputee in Olympic history.
- And women breaking through gender restrictions: for the first time in Olympic modern history, every country represented included a woman Olympian; Arab countries sent their first women competitors; and also for the first time, boxing, the last all-male sport in the Games, now includes women.
I remember when I first learned that the origin of the word ‘compete’ actually means ‘to strive together.’ Strive – for excellence, for personal best – together: not against or opposed to, but together.
This past week the idea of ‘striving together’ has been so very meaningful, because when these previously-held, almost sacrosanct limitations are blown by, we all benefit. If one overcomes a barrier of age, physical hardship, or gender, it means we all can, right in our own lives, whatever we are facing. And in this way, gently and so naturally the Olympics are doing their part in the arena of all humanity, ‘striving together’ for freedom from limitation, discord, and war. Isn’t the overcoming of limitations the true victory of freedom?
Lord Sebastian Coe, head of the London Olympic committee, stated in his opening welcome that the Olympics represent ‘…the best of mankind…’ The Olympics are a unifying and blessing factor in our global community. Not only for these two weeks, but going forward, building on what all has been achieved. Because, once a threshold has been crossed, there is no going back, no return to positions passed and outgrown.