As we enter the second week of the 2012 Olympics, athletic prowess is in full display. Phelps, Franklin, Douglas, Murray, Ennis, Bolt, Fraser-Pryce, Richards-Ross, Pistorius, Minxia Wu, Mustafina, are having the opportunity to prove their dominance in their particular events. These are skills they have shaped and strengthened. While peers may have been “hanging out” for the last few years, these individuals, along with all the Olympians, have been focused on maximizing their readiness, their individual physical and mental health in pursuit of victory.
We can observe the readiness of these athletes when they begin to compete. Mental stamina proves to be as important as physical strength when gymnasts have to balance on or shift from one apparatus to another. The micro-separation of swimmers touching the wall is achieved through mental drive at the end. The equestrians must show patience, strength and trust in their ride, as well as precision and intelligence in execution. So, the take away for me is that the individual competitions at the Olympics are as much mental as physical, if not more so.
But there is more going on at the Olympics than the physical and mental readiness of individual athletes. There is a more encompassing display of mental preparation. This is the coming together of nations…two hundred sixteen of them. As the athletes can overcome limitations by their diligence, practice, and expectation of achievement in their pursuits, the relationships at the individual and team levels among representatives of various nations, along with those of us watching, overcome the limitations of nationalistic myopia.
Putting aside the superficial quaternary medal count, one can appreciate the presence at the Olympics of the first woman Olympian from Saudi Arabia, or the woman sprinter from Iraq (for the first time there was a female participant from every nation), or the fact that a small island in the Caribbean, less than half of the population of Arizona alone, rules the Olympic track. These facts can generate the humility among humanity that spurs the health of nations in their respect for each other, having nothing to do with wealth, popularity, or military strength.
There is a sentence in a pamphlet, entitled “No and Yes” by Mary Baker Eddy, that has helped me maintain a universality in thinking beyond the borders of my home country…that has given me a healthy perspective toward those of other nations and cultures. It says, “True prayer is not asking God for love; it is learning to love, and to include all mankind in one affection”. That is the high bar for each of us. That is the healthy environment that lies beneath these games and supports the activity of the participants who seek to experience “higher, faster, stronger” accomplishments, and do.