• 5,500 Olympic athletes and officials
• 1,350 Paralympic athletes and officials
• 80 countries participating in the Olympic Games
• 40 countries participating in the Paralympic Games
• 1.6 million tickets available for the Olympic Games
• 250,000 tickets available for the Paralympic Games
• 10,000 media representatives
• 25,000 volunteers
According to tradition, the Games were established in 776 BC. People throughout the Greek world gathered in the wooded valley of Olympia for this extraordinary event. The Greek calendar was based on the Olympiad, the four-year period between Games. By 200 BC, the athletic events involved 18 different contests. Over the next century, the Games faded in popularity and came to an end.
In 1896, Baron Pierre de Coubertin re-instituted the Games and became the founder of the modern Olympic movement. The Baron’s philosophy was clear: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part; just as the most important thing in life is not to triumph but to work through the struggles. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.”
“Fighting well” requires a disciplined life of establishing specific goals and objectives to maintain physical and emotional fitness. A victorious athlete competes with discipline and integrity. As the Apostle Paul reminded Timothy, “Anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5).
The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well
Olympic athletes have three things in common:
• Short-term goals for the intensive, daily, physical training that ensures muscle tone and durability;
• Long-term goals to keep a four-year cycle in mind, and the daily plan must stick to the long-term goal;
• A positive attitude to discipline the mind and ignore distractions. A strong sense of self-worth and striving to do one’s best are essential to victory.
The Christian life is much like an athlete’s experience. Paul urged believers to be fully engaged with their newly found life in Christ. In 2 Timothy 4:2-5, he encourages his young protégé to:
• Preach the Word. While not all will have the opportunity to stand behind a pulpit, every Christian can share the gospel with a friend or neighbour.
• Prepare himself. We often leap into projects or situations without preparation. We need to pray, study God’s Word, and daily seek wisdom and discernment.
• Encourage others. Encouragement is a gift we can all give to others. It brings joy and peace of mind.
• Endure situations. Life sometimes throws us a “curveball” and we become discouraged. God calls us to endure and to confidently believe that he will see us through.
• Evangelize the world. Yes, this is an overwhelming task, but God has called us to reach out in love to a lost, dying world with the good news of the gospel.
When all the training, practising and equipping have ended and the race is completed, one can look to the Father and boldly proclaim: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
The Olympic Games will be exciting to watch. Through the cheers and joy, may we remember to continue the disciplined, goal-oriented race in our spiritual lives. Let us run daily the race of life for Jesus Christ.
Commissioner William W. Francis is the Territorial Commander of The Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda Territory. His wife, Commissioner Marilyn Francis, is the Territorial President for Women’s Ministries. Commissioners Francis have two adult children, Captain William Marshall and Susan Marjorie, plus six grandchildren.