Olympics

2008-08-09 00:00

The Olympic spirit is symbolised by its flame, a beacon that guides the aspirations of millions of athletes around the world. The Games themselves may be taken as a metaphor for an ideal world, with the finest champions from a fellowship of nations engaged in uncompromising but honourable competition. The Olympic ideal affirms much that is noble about humanity, and indeed each Games does yield its stirring tales of individuals who have striven with tenacity and courage, often against daunting odds, to achieve the best that they possibly can.

Together with the individual contests, the Olympics have become a measure of national prowess as each country tallies its harvest of medals. Ideally again, these successes should point to the benefits that a state provides to all its citizens so that they can hold their own with the best in the world. That, regrettably, is not always the case, as some countries have singled out potential champions for highly privileged treatment while the bulk of the population remains neglected. This year it is China, the host nation itself, whose reputation for human rights abuses has prejudiced the standing of the Games.

Indeed, as the Olympic flame highlights the ideal human virtues, so it exposes the meaner human frailties. Almost inevitably someone will again be found to have taken performance-enhancing drugs, but it can be hoped that the punishment will be exemplary. And, for the Chinese people, perhaps the clearing of Beijing’s polluted air for the sake of the athletes may be a harbinger of better things to come.

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