The 2002 Winter Olympic Games kicked off this past weekend. Though not as celebrated as the Summer Games, the winter version attracts its fair share of athletes and attention from around the world. Athletes from no less than 77 different countries have descended on Salt Lake City, USA in their quest for Olympic glory.The timing of the games couldn’t have been better, beginning as it did a mere six days after the crass advertisement for American patriotism that was the Super Bowl. There are times when America portrays itself as the only country that matters and the Olympics provide a wonderful contrast to this insular view.
The Olympic Movement is committed to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity, and fair play. The Olympics aren’t so much about winning as they are about taking part.
We are all familiar with the enduring symbol of the Olympics: the colored rings. Each of the five rings symbolizes one of the five continents. The conjunction of the five rings symbolizes the conjunction of the continents during the athletic events, and represents the ideal of peace and brotherhood on the whole planet. It symbolizes the power of sport to bring people together, regardless of race, color, or creed. To be part of the Olympic movement is to be part of a something larger than representation of one’s country. There is a bond which goes beyond nationalism, a bond created by a community of athletes. There is a brotherhood, or a sisterhood if you will, of people all striving for a common goal.
Still, this year there is the possibility that American patriotism could erupt into full-scale jingoism. A repeat of Super Bowl XXXVI could have other nations looking at tasteless attempts at patriotism and seeing the most blatant attempt at using nationalism to take over the Olympics since 1936. While the Super Bowl is strictly American, the Olympics belong to everybody. It would be to America’s advantage to realize this difference.