Olympic spirit outlasts competition
By Mohamed Foily in London and Monia Ghanmi in Tunis for Magharebia – 10/08/12
For two weeks, the London Olympics have been the focus of the world's attention with more than 10,000 athletes from the richest and poorest of countries taking part. While performance is the watchword for the athletes, there is another aspect, which is just as important for participants from the developing world.
On the side-lines of the main action, the Games are always rich in adventures and human dramas. It is this human aspect, which attracts spectators and often spurs them to support an athlete because of their situation.
"You can achieve something, even if you come from the poorest corner of Africa." This is the credo of athletes from developing countries who hope that their performance at the Olympics will get them invited to major meets and enable them to earn big fees.
There are many such anonymous athletes, all of whom have their own human stories to tell, who have made sacrifices just to get there and hope to make money, lift their social status and above all help their impoverished parents, who often do not realise the benefits of sport.
"When I started out in athletics, my parents didn't understand why I kept on running when there were other opportunities in life," said Jiddou Ould Khaye, the Mauritanian athlete who competed in the 200 metres in London.
"Later, when I won a few local events and got to travel abroad a few times, I brought back presents and a bit of money to help my father, who worked hard in construction. That made them see things differently, and they started to encourage me," he added.
Sport is a way of escaping misery, and this is what we discover at the end of each Olympiad when new athletes appear in advertisements and on television.
Of course, there is also a high price to pay, in the form of training and sacrifice by athletes. You have to be consistent if you want to dazzle audiences, earn your fee and above all maintain your standard. In this surreal world of incredibly well-trained athletes, it is always those with stories behind them who evoke the greatest sympathy.
The London Olympics were no exception to this rule introduced the world to previously unknown athletes who made history and shared the benefits of sport with other people who depend on their achievements for a living. This is the magic of the Games: the human aspect that we don't get to see on television.
Olympics as a vehicle for dialogue
Aside from the human aspect of the Games, the Olympic movement has aspired to help build a peaceful future for humanity. It works to promote mutual understanding and goodwill among the world's athletes in the greatest international sports event.
In this context, the United Nations passed a resolution last year providing for the Olympic Truce. The Olympic Truce is a call to the peoples of the world to halt the hostilities and conflicts among them seven days before the start of the Olympic Games until seven days after.
"If people and nations can set aside their differences, if they can place harmony over hostility, if they can do it for one day, or for one event, they can do it forever," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the opening of the London Olympics.
Sports journalist Fadia Sendesni echoed the sentiment, asserting that the Olympic Games were a place for the exercise of equality and freedom and a tool for communication, understanding and mutual respect among all participating athletes.
"There is no sporting event in the world that can be the equivalent of the Olympic Games in terms of bringing together participants from different backgrounds transcending their political and ideological differences, race, skin colours and cultures, and this in itself is an opportunity to move away from violence and dissolve differences and disputes between countries," Sendesni said.
Sports professor Imed Dali said it was necessary to preserve the values of the Games, particularly in terms "bringing the athletes together in the same house, overcoming cultural and religious divides, promoting tolerance and spreading a culture of peace".
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