Monday, July 16, 2012

The History of the Olympic Games - Part 6

Contributed by Emma Booth.
Regional Director, USA Sport Group.

Back to Part 5

Part 6: To London and Beyond

On July 27th, London will become the first city to host the Olympic Games three times (previously in 1908 and 1948). After defeating Moscow, New York and Madrid, it came down to between London and Paris, Jacques Rogge announced that London had won by 4 votes to the thousands gathered in Trafalgar Square (I was there!), and the millions watching around the country. Being held in the East End of London, with aims to regenerate that area of the city, the Olympic Stadium in Stratford was completed in 2011. The mascots and logo have received a fair bit of ridicule (I mean, have you seen them?!), but all in all, the Games in general have been received with great excitement and expectations.

Beyond London, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil won the bid for the 2016 Games, the first time it is to be held in South America. The host of the 2020 Games will be decided on 7th September, 2013, with Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid as the candidates. Baku in Azerbaijan and Doha in Qatar had also bid to become candidate cities, but were rejected, and Rome, Italy withdrew citing financial reasons.

Now the Olympics are considered financially and culturally beneficial, providing the preparations before the Games, and sustainability after the Games are well thought out, the bid to host the Olympics is now driven by economic reasons, rather than sporting reasons. Something de Coubertin would have hated, but, in today’s climate, you have to move with the times, and to remove commercialization, not include professional athletes looking to earn a living, and remove all financial benefits from the Games is simply impossible.

So although de Coubertin’s ideal of amateurism has dissolved, and his wish of promoting peace has not always been the case, I still think his original ideal rings true: “The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” To participate in the Olympics is one of the greatest moments of a sportsperson’s life. And although many may have cheated or used the Games for political or personal gain, if you ask any honest athlete whether it is the winning or the taking part, although their head may answer winning… their heart would answer the latter.

When push comes to shove, the pride of participating for your country outweighs anything else. And as ideals go, that’s a pretty decent one.

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