Continuing the Olympic tradition: In a spirit of peace and healthy competition Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Jul. 26, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Editor's View by Mary C. Uhler

It’s so sad that we mourn the deaths of 12 people and the injuries of so many others following the tragic rampage of the suspect, 24-year-old James Holmes, at the movie theater in Aurora, Colo., all happening shortly before the start of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Let us join in prayer with the religious leaders in Colorado and throughout the world for those affected by this tragedy. Pope Benedict XVI at his weekly Angelus address at Castel Gandolfo July 22 expressed his sadness over the tragedy, saying he was “deeply shocked by the senseless violence,” adding, “I share the distress of the families and friends of the victims and the injured, especially the children.”

Much as we are saddened by the tragedy in Colorado, we should not let our sorrow marr our joy as we we look forward to the Olympic Games beginning on July 25.

Origin of Olympic Games

The Olympic Games bring together athletes from around the world, many of them young people like those attending the movie in Aurora, and like the young man who allegedly perpetrated the violence there. The very purpose of the Olympic Games is to bring people together in a spirit of peace and friendly competition.

According to Greek history, the first Olympic Games can be traced back to 776 BC. The games were dedicated to the 12 Olympian gods and were hosted on the ancient green plains of Olympia, the place  famous for its magnificent temples of the two gods Zeus and his wife Hera. The games initially had a very religious character combined by a number of ancient sport events, many of them based on ancient Greek mythology.

The Olympiad was a time of union, with a four-year interval. The participants came from every corner of the Greek world to compete for the ultimate prize, the olive wreath, and the return to their city-states as heroes. It was a noble competition and an effort to combine the body, mind, and will in a balanced whole.

As the Olympics developed, so did procedures such as the standard schedule of events and the Olympic truce. All wars and fighting were banned during the Games. The  Games continued for almost 12 centuries, until the Roman Emperor Theodosius banned them in 393 AD.

The Olympic Games were revived by the French Baron Pierre de Coubertin in the late 19th century. The Games of the Olympiad, also known as Summer Olympics, have taken place every four years since 1896, with the exception of the years during the World Wars. In 1924 the Winter Olympics began for winter sports. Since 1994, the Winter Games are not held the same year as the Summer Games.

Paralympic Games

A more recent addition to the Olympics is the Paralympic Games. This is a major international multi-sport event where athletes with a physical disability compete; this includes athletes with mobility disabilities, amputations, blindness, and cerebral palsy.

There are Winter and Summer Paralympic Games, which are held immediately following their respective Olympic Games. The Paralympics have grown from a small gathering of British World War II veterans in 1948 to become one of the largest international sport events by the early 21st century.

Youth Olympic Games

The newest Olympic event is the Youth Olympic Games, an international multi-sport event first held in Singapore in August of 2010. The games are held every four years in staggered summer and winter events consistent with the current Olympic Games format. The age limitation of the athletes is 14 to 18.

The 2012 Winter Youth Olympics lasted 10 days. The games also feature cultural exchange programs and opportunities for participants to meet Olympic athletes.

Continuing the Olympic tradition

The games have grown in scale to the point that nearly every nation is represented. All the athletes continue the Olympic tradition of providing a healthy competition combining the efforts of body, mind, and spirit.

The Olympics have had to deal with such challenges as boycotts, doping, bribery, and terrorism. However, on the whole the Olympics provide an opportunity for athletes around the world to join together as congenial competitors and learn more about each other in the process.

Let’s pray that this year’s Summer Olympics in London will be free of any violence or terrorist attacks. Let the Games begin in a spirit of friendship and peace!