Thursday, August 16

The Olympic Spirit

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The London 2012 Olympics ended last Sunday, August 12. The representatives of all countries played for gold and glory in many various fields of sports. There were the inspiring stories of victories and the equally admirable stories of sportsmanship in participation.

Before the Olympic fever finally dies down, here are a few interesting trivia that you probably didn’t know:

1.       The Olympic motto is Citius, Altius, Fortius. This is a Latin expression which translates to “Faster, Higher, Stronger.

2.       Below is the Olympic creed. A “creed” means belief and, in particular, the Olympics’ creed is a good thing to learn by heart:

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.

3.       The Olympic rings, the Olympic symbol, represent the unity of the 5 continents of the world: Africa, America, Asia, Australia and Europe.

Did you know that the colors of the 5 rings – blue, yellow, black, green, and red – can be found singly or combined in the flags of every nation in the world?

This year’s Olympic Games were a rousing success, thanks to the exemplary leadership of hosting country England.

If you’re a fan of any one sport and you’ve followed all the regular updates from London, then you will know all about the scores, medals, and team standings.

Personally for me though, at the end of the Games, two side stories will be remembered – but not in a positive way. These events stand out because they go against the consistent theme and spirit of the Olympics.

First, one negative bit of opinion that rocked the start of the 2012 Olympics was a Tweet from Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou. She gave this racist comment about African immigrants:

       “With so many Africans in Greece, the mosquitoes from the West Nile will at least be eating some homemade food.

       The Greek Olympic team responded promptly and fairly by kicking out Papachristou. According to the Hellenic Olympic Committee, “[Papachristou made] statements contrary to the values and ideas of the Olympic movement.

        “It’s the same as violating fair play,” Isidros Kouvelos, the head of Greece’s Olympic mission, also said. “We are not here just to get medals, but to promote the Olympic ideals, to show our character.


       The second event that I would like to mention here happened after the men's third-place soccer game. The Korean team won 2-0 over Japan and midfielder Park Jong-woo held up a sign that read: “Dokdo is our territory.”


    It seems Koreans are not new to the practice of displaying controversial and emotional statements at matches, be they from players or fans. In September last year, at a quarterfinal game of the Asian Champions League, Korean soccer fans were also seen holding an insensitive sign that read: “Congratulations on Japan’s earthquake.

     It will be remembered that on March 11 last year, earthquakes in Sendai, Japan claimed the lives of no less than 16, 273 people. 27, 074 were also injured and 3, 061 missing.

     This time, the sign “Dokdo is our territory” refers to a small group of barely inhabitable islets lying between Japan and Korea and whose total land area is exactly 0.19 square kilometers (46.32 acres). This group of islets, also called “Takeshima” by the Japanese and consisting of 2 main islets and 35 smaller rocks, has been a bitter point of contention between the two competing countries ever since the end of the second World War.

       The 23-year old player Park Jong-woo held up the sign after the match. This took place on the same day that South Korean president Lee Myung-bak paid a very controversial and politically-charged visit to the disputed islands.  (He was the first ever president to do so.) Needless to say, diplomatic tension has heightened between the two countries.

      Another post was made on this blog about a similar issue, because no less than 6 countries -- China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan -- also have conflicting claims in the region of the South China Sea.

        In any case, player Park Jong-woo was prevented from receiving his medal at the ceremony last Saturday pending investigation by the Olympic committee.  All his 17 teammates received their bronze medals.

         Both the Olympic committee and FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) strictly enforce rules prohibiting athletes from making political statements on the Olympic playing field. 

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