Since the time of the Ancient Greeks, the Olympics have represented a cultural gathering in the name of celebrating sports. The ancient ritual provided a temporary pause in warring so that athletes could attend the competition. Even today, the Olympic Truce in place provides safe passage for all traveling to the games.
The modern Olympic Games have been steeped in historical and cultural significance, as the event is frequently used as a platform to share a message with the world. When watching, be sure to listen and observe carefully to notice these sometimes subtle, and sometimes obvious, messages that cultures choose to share with the rest of the world.
According to the Olympic Charter, “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites.” Despite the inevitable negative perspectives and apparent challenges that come with hosting the Olympics (it is an expensive burden), the event provides an opportunity to introduce the world to the people of the local culture, which may expand economic prospects. In a time of increasing differences, the Olympics provide a time to focus on similarities among humans and exemplifying the hard work of athletes.
The Olympic Winter Games will begin on the 9th of February in PyeongChang. The ceremony will feature a “Festival of Harmony,” which opens the cultural exchange with a spirit of inclusion and celebration. It is expected to last for about two hours, as athletes, world leaders, and supporters gather together. The Paralympics will begin on March 8, also in PyeongChang.
The Olympics are filled with symbolism, especially since the event is a modern representation of an ancient gathering. The Olympic logo - five interlocking rings - represents the five continents from which Olympians hail. The colors can combine to form any world flag: blue, yellow, black, green, red, and white.
The carrying of the Olympic flame is a tradition that illuminates the way through the host country. The relay begins with lighting a torch using the rays of the sun in Olympia, Greece. In the past, the Olympic flame has been transmitted via satellite, submerged under water, to the North Pole, into space, and carried around entire nations by a diverse combination of people. This extensive effort truly symbolizes the importance of teamwork in global endeavors.
The Parade of Nations in the opening ceremony introduces each participating team, led by local guides into the arena. The country flag is held proudly, and the uniforms of the athletes usually reflect their cultural heritage.
Olympic champions receive a bronze, silver, or gold medal. The design of the medal changes each Olympics to convey relevant symbols, but the Olympic rings and number are always included. Champions are given a bouquet of flowers and an olive leaf wreath crown.
“May joy and good fellowship reign, and in this manner, may the Olympic torch pursue its way through ages, increasing friendly understanding among nations, for the good of a humanity always more enthusiastic, more courageous, and more pure.” –Pierre de Coubertin, Founder of the International Olympic Committee
Athletes as Cultural Pioneers
Participants in the Olympics are ambassadors for their nation. This event is a time for athletes to set aside their daily trials and stereotypes to focus on competing at their best and forming new friendships. Throughout the Olympic Village, elements of culture is evident. Athletes from collectivist cultures generally move about the village in groups and matching uniforms, while individualist culture athletes mingle with others in their spare time. It is a tradition among athletes to trade pins from their home country as they meet others. In the dining hall, foods from around the world are available to try, or to offer a familiar comfort. Athletes can also write letters to one another through on-site translation services, which helps overcome the communication barrier.
Cross-team friendships are built and maintained on this world stage. Many athletes at this level are used to traveling great distances to compete in global contests. Those who travel frequently, either for work or leisure, know that the more someone travels, the more easily they can adapt to foreign cultures. Traveling helps people experience customs that are very different from their own and demonstrates that “different” does not mean “wrong.”
Unity in Competition
Sports can represent various values in a culture. Olympic competitors give hope to aspiring athletes and receive admiration from spectators. Milestones in the Olympics frequently reflect the current events in a country; consider the reactions to a first medal win, a first woman competitor, or even the first time a country fields a time in a particular sport. These situations indicate growth and give hope to country citizens by encouraging feelings of pride.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) states that sports are a human right. UNESCO recognizes the power of “teamwork, fairness, respect for the opposition, and honoring the rules of the game.” These foundational principals are consistent with how a citizen of the world is expected to conduct themselves. Athletes have the power to promote cultural understanding and global unity, which is a concept that businesspeople can apply to their teams too.
The Olympics are a beloved platform upon which nations can showcase its abilities and perspectives. Throughout the next few weeks, cheer on your home team and congratulate your global teammates on the successes of their fellow citizens. Sports are a cherished pastime around the world, and everyone can always benefit from a reminder of the power of teamwork and devotion to accomplish goals!
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