It has been my privilege to meet Olympic athletes and coaches. The cover of TIME, July 30, 2012, with the spectacular picture of gymnast Gabby Douglas, let us know something unusual was about to take place. It was akin to weddings and coronations of the Royal Family. This was to be a crowning of the finest athletes in the world.
Brilliant journalist, Nancy Gibbs, whom Kitty and I have met and talked with, titled her lead story, “Three Cheers for London” and added this introductory sentence, “The Olympics head to Britain for an unprecedented third time. Global economic gloom can’t dim the competition for gold.”
Encyclopedias, sports histories and books that deal specifically with the Olympic Games recite the long and changing history of these international events. Sports are dropped and new ones added.
Derek Coleman, accomplished columnist for The Putnam Herald, the Putnam County edition of The Herald Dispatch, Huntington, WV, writes about the 30th Olympiad in modern times and again in his homeland of England. Coleman comments, “The Olympic Games started in ancient Greece as competitions between city-states and various small kingdoms. The first mention of them was in the year 776 B.C., at which time they consisted of athletic competitions together with combat and chariot racing, the first-recorded winner appears to have been someone called Coroebus, who was a cook from the city of Elis.”
For many years, I have looked forward to both the summer and winter Olympic Games. I suppose we all soon find favorites among the participants. Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian ever, now has 22 medals, 18 of them gold. Usain Bolt, a six-time gold medalist is called the best sprinter of all time. Then there was 16-year-old Gabby Douglas who won two gold medals and I became one of her fans.
As I watched and listened to these great Olympic athletes, both women and men, they were the kind of young people I would like to meet. I admire their performances for their skill, dedication and long years of hard work. Any medal winner could possibly have won the gold on another day.
As I went down the list of medal winners, I realized they were from numerous countries where Kitty and I have visited and now cherish the memories of being with so many hospitable people on all the major continents. I was delighted to see participants from Britain, South Korea, China, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Kenya, Canada, Switzerland, Egypt, Greece, Thailand, Belgium and other countries.
Who will ever forget Oscar Pistorius, the “Blade Runner” from South Africa? American Maneo Mitchell broke his leg, but kept on running with 200 meters to go. It was also the first time women Olympians came from Saudi, Qatar and Brunei. None outshone Queen Elizabeth II, who “parachuted” into the stadium during the opening ceremonies with magic-like assistance.
We salute these tremendous athletes who, along with their coaches and families, understand more than anybody the hard work, sacrifices, tremendous monetary expense, commitment, dedication and skill that is all combined to prepare an athlete to appear in such elite company.
St. Paul was acquainted with the early Olympic Games and wrote, “Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, …” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Be as dedicated as an Olympian in everything you do and the chances are very good that you will be a winner.
Dr. William “Bill” Ellis of Scott Depot is a weekly syndicated columnist who writes on a wide variety of subjects. Ellis has spent 25 years as a radio and television broadcaster and as a guest speaker and teacher on college campuses.