When you think of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, what comes into your head? Do you re-live Usain Bolt becoming a living sporting legend at Rio 2016?
Or Nadia Comaneci scoring the first perfect 10 in gymnastics at the Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976? Or perhaps you recall US swimmer Trischa Zorn winning her 55th and final Paralympic medal at Athens 2004.
These are all images of Olympic and Paralympic greatness which inspire and amaze in equal measure.
However, you may also – like me – be thinking of another sort of image. Not one of triumph nor defeat, but of pure courage, humility and spirit. The Olympic spirit. Because these moments also touch billions of people across the globe.
Some moments which easily come to my mind are Derek Redmond forcing himself to hobble the final 250 metres of his 400m semi-final with a torn hamstring at Barcelona 1992. His hopes of glory were shattered but, with the help of his dad who came onto the track to literally support his son, Redmond carried on anyway.
And what about the Jamaican bobsled team who pushed their sled over the line to wild cheers from the 40,000 crowd at Calgary 1988?
That moment was powerful enough even for Hollywood, which immortalised the four friendly Jamaicans in the film Cool Runnings.
And most recently at Rio 2016, we saw another fine moment of sportsmanship and respect when Abbey D'Agostino and Nikki Hamblin collided with each other during their 5000m qualifier yet both then helped each other to finish the race.
Watching such feats inspires us to be better people and encourages us to look outside ourselves and share in the heartache, jubilation and comradery of others. This is a powerful combination of emotions and I believe it can help lay the foundations for a peaceful and better world.
This is particularly important right now, when sport is facing stern questions about its integrity and governance.
At tough times it is vital to remember why sport is so important to us as individuals and as a society.
The competition at Rio 2016 placed the pure essence of sport and the Olympic values front and centre in our minds once again.
Not least because Rio saw the first ever refugee team compete at an Olympic Games. Ten athletes from around the world crossed national borders to compete under the Olympic flag, proving that this remarkable event can offer a sense of belonging to anyone – even to those who could no longer call their home country their home.
I was particularly touched by the words of IOC President Thomas Bach as he welcomed these athletes to the Olympic family. Offering up “a home in the Olympic Village together with all the athletes of the world”, he took the opportunity to remind us that “refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society”. I absolutely agree that these refugee athletes have shown the whole world that “despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit”.
For me, Olympism is about reaching your full potential, no matter who you are. It’s about working together in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play to build a better society and help integrate communities. Beyond the refugee team, the IOC are engaged in a number of global and local initiatives, including: the Olympic Values Education programme, the Peace Through Sport programme, the Olympic Truce and the Sport For Hope programme. Many other Olympic Movement stakeholders, meanwhile, are engaging in their own projects that promote Olympism 365 days a year.
As the Olympic Movement continues to inspire sports fans and non-sports fans alike, we at the Russian International Olympic University (RIOU) are also working tirelessly to reinforce and spread its values. As a University which focuses on training the next generation of sports managers for the sports industry, we are helping to ensure that the Olympic Movement stays true to its course and continues to place sport at the service of humanity.
The “Russian International Olympic University” (RIOU) focuses on training specialists in sports management for the international sports industry and the Olympic and Paralympic Movements. RIOU’s courses cover major areas of sports education - including management of sporting events and facilities; mass communications; diplomacy and administration and career management – preparing students to make a positive and lasting impact on the international sports industry and secure prestigious positions within sporting organisations.
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