The Olympic Games began in the 8th century BC and continued to 393 AD. Originally they were between the city-states and kingdoms of Greece and were held in Olympia Greece in a stadium dedicated to the god Zeus. The Olympics were a logical creation of the Greeks who passionately loved competing in everything, from sports, to the arts and theater, and even social drinking.
After not existing for 1500 years, the Olympian Games were revived by the French aristocrat Baron Pierre de Coubertin in 1890 when he founded the International Olympic Committee. Of the games he naively said, “The most important thing in the Olympian Games is not to win, but to take part…the essential thing is not to conquer but to have fought well.” I say “naively” since in each event of the Olympics there has existed obvious intense competition to win medals, especially the Gold.
That is equally true in all levels of sports today. Whether at the professional, college, high school or even grade school level, winning is the most important thing. Competing to win at all cost is contagious and isn’t restricted to athletic events alone. It infects sport fans, work places, classrooms, businesses and religions. Even the family isn’t spared as children compete with one another for their parents’ attention and praise, and their parents vie with one another for the love of their children. Is our obsession with competing an Olympian poisonous souvenir, or has it existed since primal times?
Amish Mennonite Christians forbid their children to play competitive games since they are deemed detrimental to their religious code of neighborly teamwork and communal cooperation. Whatever your religious denomination, do you believe that competition in all its expressions is opposed to your Christian religious values? That question is haunted by this historical fact: After existing eleven hundred years, the Greek Olympic Games were banned in 393 AD for the sole reason that they were non-Christian!
(to be continued in next week’s "Haystack")