For the past week, the world’s attention has been centered upon the 2012 Summer Olympics, a culmination of four years of dedicated training by athletes and exhaustive planning by the International Olympic Committee.
It’s the event everyone is talking about. Whether it’s for the spectacular opening ceremony or to see Michael Phelps become the most decorated Olympian in history, most everyone seems to have a vested interest.
This year’s Games, hosted by London, display a staggering 302 events across 26 different sports and feature the talents of approximately 10,500 athletes from all corners of the globe. These competitors represent 204 different National Olympic Committees which include all 193 U.N. recognized nations as well as a handful of geographic territories.
The fact that there exists an event, in which the majority of the world participates, is nothing short of amazing. To watch a soccer game between North Korea and the United States (two countries that couldn’t be more diametrically opposed) is a surreal experience that we often take for granted.
That’s not to say that there isn’t controversy. As with any major event there are bound to be complaints. Early on, Iran expressed doubts over the Olympic logo, threatening to boycott the games. There have also been small scuffles including inappropriate tweets by athletes as well as complaints about low attendance.
But overall the 2012 Olympics has done what it’s intended to do: Offer a chance for athletes, regardless of race, creed or ethnicity, a chance to represent their country on the world stage — a chance which, for most, is the result of a lifetime of dedication and practice.
There is a good reason that we idealize the Olympics; the sheer willpower and training required of an Olympic athlete transcends national boundaries and the human struggle of the Games is a concept recognized by all peoples.
The theme of human triumph is absolutely central to the Olympic Games. You can see it in the surprise victory of Lithuanian swimmer Ruta Meilutyte, who, at the age of 15, has just taken gold and broken the European swimming record. The theme of triumph is equally evident in the continued reign of Michael Phelps, who has just won his eighteenth gold medal, thus setting a new Olympic record.
These athletes have worked tirelessly to represent their home nations by giving their all on a national stage. The successes and failures are broadcast to all corners of the globe for all to see in a way that highlights the interconnectivity of the modern world.
This is the reason that the Olympic Games are so vitally important. It offers a chance to bring nations together for the shared purpose of watching their athletes succeed. To see a group of athletes, separated by various cultures, brought together to compete for a common goal is a refreshing take on international relations.
So, whatever the outcome of the 2012 Games, use this as a rare opportunity to relish the international cooperation and individual determination that make the event possible. For a world constantly plagued by violence, corruption and economic peril, the Olympics come as a welcome reprieve from the familiar reports of conflict in the media.
The motto of the London Olympics, “Inspire a generation,” says it all. Through cross-cultural corporation and the personal determination of each and every athlete, the 2012 Summer Games have succeeded in inspiring a generation; just as the Olympics will continue to do for years to come.