Today is the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Lasting until Aug. 12, the Games are a way to unify the globe regardless of our differences — and that’s something we could use a lot more of in these times.
The Olympic symbol — the five interlocking rings coloured, blue, yellow, black, green and red — is a representation of the union of the continents and the athletes at the Games. That symbolism is not only powerful, but needed when we hear so much about all of the trials and tribulations of the world and the pain and suffering on every side.
I have always been a strong supporter of Team Canada at the Olympics and pay attention to when we win or lose. Held every four years, there are many talented athletes out there with amazing stories.
The Olympics also have a long history that plays a role in why they are important, even for someone who doesn’t watch the Games.
The Olympics, named after the Greek city of Olympia, have always been regarded as prestigious. The first documented Olympic champion was Corebus in 776 B.C. He was a cook from Elis who won the spring race. Historians tend to believe the Games existed for 500 years before that date.
The Games continued until AD 393 when Roman emperor Theodosius ordered them to be discontinued. It wasn’t until 1892 when French aristocrat 29-year-old Baron Pierre de Coubertin raised the issue publicly of reviving the Games. Coubertin also had the idea of having five coloured interlocking rings on a white background for the Olympic flag.
In 1894, Coubertin convinced delegates from 49 organizations representing nine countries to revive the Games. So in April 1896, the Olympics began again in Athens.
However, in 1908 the Games held in London were the first when events were organized with national teams, comprising of more than 2,000 athletes from 22 nations in 100 events.
Ever since then, the Games have been held every four years, with the exception of the dates that fell during the First and Second World Wars. Canada has taken part since 1900.
This year, an estimated 10,500 athletes from 205 nations will participate in 300 events. In the Paralympic Games, held from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9, there will be 147 nations taking part. In my opinion the Paralympic Games are equally as important as the Olympic Games.
But just looking at the core history of the Games shows how many nations have come together to participate in competitive sports. Every four years the Olympics unite us in a way that almost nothing else can.
So even if you don’t plan on watching the Games or if you don’t care for them at all, the unifying message behind the Olympics still stands. Showing a little support is the least you can do for your country and the athletes that represent that country.