The true spirit of the Olympics
Published 21/08/2016 | 02:30
In this postmodern era of scepticism and distrust it is easy to lose sight of the words of Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning, but taking part." It is not to have vanquished, de Coubertin also said, but to have fought well.
There were many examples of this true spirit of the Olympics in Rio, perhaps most notably in the heats of the women's 5,000m, when Abbey D'Agostino of the US and Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand tripped and fell. The two athletes then helped each other to the finish line. Both have received worldwide attention for their outstanding display of the Olympic spirit, more so than they would have done for winning medals.
There were other examples of what the great writer Ernest Hemingway has defined as courage, that is, grace under pressure: the Polish discus thrower, Piotr Malachowski, who won silver in Beijing in 2008, led the competition in Rio throughout until a German rival, Christoph Harting, snatched victory with his last throw. Yet Malachowski's reaction to seeing his dream of a gold medal disappear was to embrace his rival and to celebrate alongside him.