Pastoral Perspectives

We Face Our Own Olympics – Finishing Your Race

My closest encounter with the Olympics was in 1996 when CEF was involved in some outreach in the Olympic games in Atlanta, Georgia USA. Then came the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia when I was CEF Regional Director for Asia Pacific and had the privilege of partnering CEF Australia in outreach at the Olympic village. The fever went further with CEF Hong Kong reaching out to those attending the Beijing Olympics 2008 for events held in Hong Kong. With the London Olympics 2012 I could only watch on TV and it caused quite some headlines when the spirit of the Olympic motto was violated.

According toDe Coubertin: ‘The important thing in life is not to triumph, but to compete,’ and encouraged everyone to compete against themselves. His sentiment was institutionalized in the Olympic motto, which challenges each individual to become the best they can: ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ (Faster, Higher, Stronger). The Olympic Charter requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.’ At heart de Coubertin was an educationalist. He hoped that sport would contribute to a peaceful and better world. He wanted sport to push people to become the best they can and help others to do the same. Crucially, he wanted sport to be available to everyone in a spirit of fair play. A medal for sportsmanship has been named in his honour.

            In the spirit of sportsmanship, China had become embroiled in the first doping controversy of the London Games after one of the world’s most respected coaches described the swimming prodigy Ye Shiwen‘s gold medal performance as “unbelievable” and “disturbing”. Next we saw what some called it cheating or just strategizing. Eight badminton players have been disqualified from the women’s doubles competition after being accused of “not using one’s best efforts to win”; the players were also accused of “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport”. Gail Emms, badminton Olympic silver medalist for Great Britain in 2004, who was at the event for BBC Sport, said: “I’m furious. It is very embarrassing for our sport. “This is the Olympic Games. This is something that is not acceptable. The crowd paid good money to watch two matches.” The question is where is the spirit and moral of sportsmanship? The focus for all participants is the Olympic Gold and the honour they bring home to their country.

            In the local arena, in the recent table tennis games at the London Olympics, about 8 out of 10 Singaporeans polled online were not proud of China-born Singaporean Feng Tianwei winning the bronze medal. Singapore offers the highest to an Olympic gold medal winner. What does this tell us? In the Sunday Times 12 August 2012, Rachel Chang wrote: “It’s OK that Singaporeans not really into sports.”  Her contention is that we may not have the obsessive drive, no childhood, practice 15 hours day, strict-calorie control, no interest out of sporting area type, intensive singular focus brutish training camps lifestyle. Just like our founding prime minister would say, we’re just not hungry enough.

            In fact many of us may have forgotten DEREK REDMOND. He is best remembered for his performance at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona where he tore his hamstring in the 400 metres semi-final but fought through the pain and, with assistance from his father, managed to complete a full lap of the track as the crowd gave him a standing ovation. The incident has become a well-remembered moment in Olympic history, That’s the Olympic spirit. One competes not to win the prize but to do one’s best.

            We all agree that there is something magical about watching the Olympics. I think it’s seeing people exceed beyond the “normal” that’s exciting. You can’t be a spectator and not be inspired to try your own Olympic sport! What marvel us is hearing the stories of how athletes got started–especially those who’ve overcome major obstacles to be where they are today. For those of us who deal with daily illnesses and health issues, just getting up each day can be a battle.

            In Hebrews 12 the Christian life is compared to a race. The words of this chapter were penned to encourage believers who were facing great persecution to “fix” their eyes on the perfect example of the Lord Jesus Christ who overcame life’s toughest obstacles. In order to finish your race, winning requires the same disciplines as in an Olympic game. You must lay aside the sinful habits and attitudes that hold you back and fix your eyes on Jesus. Only by focusing on and following His example of love, surrender and obedience can you win the race. Yes, the Christian race requires great commitment and focus, but it has one great reward that the Olympic Games do not have. In the Christian race, every runner can win. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 9:24, “ . . . They all run to obtain the prize.” What an encouraging thought! If you fix your eyes on Jesus as you run the race of life, you are a guaranteed winner. No other race on earth can boast such greatness. I don’t know about you but watching the Olympics has inspired me to keep on running my own race and to not give up. I pray this for you as well–with God you face your own Olympics.

            Dr. McGee said, “Let us now get out of the grandstand; let us get down on the racecourse of life, and let us do whatever God has called us to do wherever He has called us to live and move and have our being. Let us run the Christian race, and let us move out for God.”

Pastor Cheng Huat

September 2, 2012