Campaigning for #OlympicPeace

Alexandra Moore

Looking to the Olympic Games as a model of unity, respect, understanding

 

I have always loved the Olympic Games.

There is something unmistakably miraculous about the unification of the entire world, of all countries, governments, peoples, religions, etc., through something so simple and so universally beloved: sports.

Despite deep tensions, hatred and even war, athletes and spectators alike set those things aside every other year for two weeks of deliberate peace.

This is the beauty of the Olympics.

There are many stories of unprecedented unity and unlikely friendship provided by this extraordinary global tradition, including one that will take place at this year’s Winter Games.

The #OlympicPeace campaign page, olympic.org/peace, recounts some of these historically inspirational Olympic moments:

Take, for instance, the legendary, interracial comradery of long jump competitors Jesse Owens and Luz Long who protested contemporary ideology and, indeed, Hitler himself.

Another example is pentathlete and gold medalist Mary Peters’ 1972 victory, which acted as a “beacon of hope and peace” for a violent, riotous Ireland by bridging the opposing sides through national celebration.

Finally, Sudanese refugee and runner Guor Mading Maker’s participation in 2012, despite having no country to represent, opened the Games to the displaced as a means of “rewriting destiny.”

The list of these miracles has only grown as time has progressed, continually converting oppression and enmity into optimism and equality.

This year we have the privilege of witnessing a modern Olympic miracle, and an especially hopeful one at that: on Feb. 9, North and South Korea will march together during the opening ceremonies of the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

In what the New York Times deems “the most dramatic gesture of reconciliation between them in a decade,” the Koreas will compete, for the first time in Olympic history, as one team, under one name and flag, parading the auspicious image of an undivided Korean Peninsula.

After a meeting held at the border, International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, announced the successful agreement, wielding the freshly signed “Olympic Korean Peninsula Declaration” and accrediting the participation, collaboration and symbolic reunification of the two republics.

Although the country participates in every Summer Olympics, North Korea refused to attend both the 1984 and 1988 Games in Los Angeles and South Korea out of contempt for the country and its alignment with the United States.

Breaking this trend, along with its eight-year boycott of the Winter Olympic Games, North Korea will be sending 22 athletes to compete in three sports and five disciplines, including a historical joint women’s ice hockey team with the South.

Relishing in this momentous model of the “Olympic Spirit,” Bach declared his faith in the capability of this year’s Games to “open the door to a brighter future on the Korean peninsula, and invite the world to join in a celebration of hope.”

Not everyone shares Bach’s positivity, however, including ESPN’s Sam Borden, who deemed the agreement “an illusion of unity” in his online article last week.

Recognizing that “political division and fears still govern the region,” Borden scoffs at the “breathy” and “saccharine” claims that portray the Olympics as “a political lubricant that is larger than any conflict or history.”

We, of course, must agree with Borden’s sardonicism and doubt, because the deep-rooted divisions of the Korean governments and their hundred million citizens will never be rectified by the Olympic Games, which are, as suggested by Borden, mere games.

At the same time, we must not deny the extensive history of the power of the Olympic Spirit.

It is impossible to perceive the Olympics as simply a sporting event when considering the significance of a global gathering in 2018. During these past few years, hardly a day went by in which the news did not consist of new developments in terrorism.

Whether it be a bombing, shooting or slandering, nations and groups are hunting each other, and hate is the constant headline.

Regardless, the Winter Olympic Games will still take place next month, and, in my opinion, for 206 countries to join together for a unified festival is a miracle in and of itself.

While it may not prevent the potential for nuclear war nor reunify two nations in dire need of reconciliation, I stand with Thomas Bach in his affirmation that the Olympics “show us how, despite all our differences, it is possible for humankind to live together in peace, respect, and harmony.”

Although it may only be two weeks, Bach affirms that “the Olympic Games show us what the world could look like if we are all guided by…respect and understanding,” and — as God commands us — Love.