Since my recent visit to the completely revamped Heathrow, I’ve officially stopped calling the Olympics by their official name. The 2012 London Olympics, set to kick off tonight in a blaze of ceremony that will showcase the very best the Queen’s city has to offer, have been “brit-ified” and are now being universally referred to as “The Games” – a historical gathering of multinational athletes to compete in their choice of “sport” for the world to watch.
It’s really an incredible event. The history of the modern Olympic Games dates back to 1984, but the concept spans centuries, beginning in Ancient Greece and with legends of characters such as Hercules and Zeus. Though the format has evolved over time (chariot racing and hand-to-hand combat has been favorably replaced by Michael Phelps’ clock-crushing 200s and the gravity-defying young ladies that take to the bars, beam and vault as a unified team), one thing remains the same. This year’s Games will unite the world in not only one of the most celebrated forms of entertainment but also an appreciation of economic development, competition and progress. In other words, a celebration of modern global society.
The history of London as the foremost host of the most-watched sporting event in the world is an interesting one. The debut London Games took place in the beginning of the 20th century at the crest of Britain’s position as the chief superpower in the world. The Games landed next on British soil in 1948, the nation still reeling from a devastating WWII. Both events marked important firsts in Olympic history. London was also the first city to introduce the tradition of opening ceremonies as well as the host to the first Games broadcast on home televisions. With its third go-around in 2012, London is now the city to have hosted the Olympics Games the most, and with world economies still struggling to overcome fiscal hardship, this year’s Games are likely to be another important event in history for both the city and the world.
In ancient times, the competition took place between representatives from the various city-states and kingdoms of the Roman Empire. Often plagued with inter-empirical conflict, the Games marked a time where all conflict was to be suspended, so that everyone could revel in the competition. And now, this history is something important to keep in mind, as we all jot down the schedule for our favorite events. The past few years of economic turmoil have marked significant tension between various nations and between bail outs and bankruptcies, now is not a time where we are all ready to sit back and sing Kumbaya. I think, however, like the athletes carrying our flags, it is important to remember that coming together – whether in sport, politics or business – is as important as ever. So, as we all take to our TVs over the next few weeks to enjoy London’s Games, let us recognize that countries large and small must depend on each other for support and that advancement and accomplishment also breeds responsibility to help others. Alone, no Olympian, performer, judge, newscaster or spectator could captivate us or make an entertaining global spectacle. But when we all come together in celebration and competition, that’s a when jolly good show can take place. Let the Games begin!