Opinion Piece:

The Olympic Games and the Future


by  Professor António Gentil Martins, MD, FICS

Olympian, Author, Journalist

Lisbon, Portugal


Link for Citation Purposes: https://bwwsociety.org/journal/archive/the-olympic-games-and-the-future.htm


Olympism has always been defined as a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole, the qualities of the body, will and mind, seeking to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for fundamental ethical principles. More important than winning or losing, is to have done one’s best.


In old Greece, and under their respected religious beliefs, existed the Games truce, ceasing all fights for the period of the Olympic Games (before, during and after). But because of the progressive pressure for financial profit and benefits, easily leading to corruption, the ideals of honor and glory progressively faded away, so that around a thousand years of the start (in 762aC), they ceased (in 393dC), during the Roman Empire.


Olympism aims at promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity, and the Olympic Spirit sees Sports as a concept and ideal of life and not way of life, as, legitimately, professionals do. Considering that professionalism in sports, however legitimate, is incompatible with the Olympic Spirit defined according to the "Olympic Charter", the Olympic Games should be reserved for Amateurs and not open for professionals, as they have the World Championships.


Nevertheless, considering that in modern Olympic Games certain modalities could only be practiced by athletes financially healthy, (in practice a discrimination based on financial capacity), athletes should be allowed to receive financial support, but only to the extent to compensate for needed expenses or losses, incurred when aiming to compete in the Olympic Games. 


However, if an athlete would make a direct profit from his athletic performances, whatever the modality, he should be precluded from participating in them in the future (with the exception stated in point 2 of number B of the IOC Code of Ethics). Everyone remembers what happened to the finish athlete Paavo Nurmi after he won the 5.000 m in 1924……...! Because he had earned some money from further athletic performances, he was forbidden to compete again in the Olympics…...!


It is certainly time for the IOC to clarify without ambiguity the frontiers between amateur and professional sport, excluding in new Games those who had, although legitimately, made their Olympic results their new way of life.


Since their start in 1886, the spirit of Coubertin prevailed: the integration of all peoples in a spirit of peace and solidarity, through sports (the Olympic Symbol, with 5 rings representing the 5 Continents). Sports should be not only a source of pleasure but also an intellectual stimulus and solidarity factor, considering the other competitors, just as such, and not as adversaries. The intellectual stimulus remained until the Games in Los Angeles (1932), where the last non-physical but intellectual competition (Art, Music, Poetry and Literature), took place. Another negative aspect of modern evolution and to be updated……


Organizing the Olympic Games was a very expensive problem, so it was difficult to find candidate Countries. And that happened until Barcelona (with Samaranch) when the Games started to become profitable, not only through the prestige of the athletes (that it always had),  but above all, by the interest of State and the Media on the truly exceptional “Show” they really are, particularly in the Open Ceremony …and in some amazing “Circus” like performances.


Now, as they involve incredibly large sums (and even allow improvement of local conditions), there are always many Candidate Countries .. But because the spectacular side tends to prevail, so the sports modalities accepted are “changing” to suit the Media and their interests, the show becoming progressively more important and prevalent.                 


The unique nature of the Olympic Games allows for the whole world athletes to meet in peace and harmony.  Respecting the differences between each one is an exceptional message of that peace and harmony. So we have been able to see, as a positive example, during the era of the partition, the 2 Germanys (East and West), and the 2 Koreas (North and South) in the same Team.


It is true that the Olympic Charter, in point 10, still stresses that the Olympic Spirit is opposed to the abusive, political or commercial, use of sport and athletes.      


The focus of the Olympic Games should be kept on the Athletes performances, in Sports and the International Peace and Harmony.


The practice of sports is certainly a human right, incompatible with any form of discrimination So every individual must be able to have the possibility to practice sport. But it must be obvious that a man that changes administratively his sex, should never be able to compete as a female. Also, any athlete proved guilty for doping, should also be precluded from ever participating in the Olympic Games.


Nowadays, to the 3 first traditional symbols of Olympism (“higher, faster and stronger” suggested by Dominican Father Henri Didon in 1913), and to the 3 words of “Excellence, Friendship and Respect” commonly used to characterize Olympic values, a new word was added in Tokyo in 2021: “Together”. That was positive. But…….


Rule 50.2 still clearly and expressly states that no kind of political, religious or racial demonstration or propaganda is allowed in the Olympic Village, competition field and other areas. That happens because it is certainly tempting to use the Olympic Games and their visibility as a platform to defend one’s own views. Nevertheless, in Tokyo, something was strangely accepted by the IOC and its President Bach, based on a Survey made to Olympians (of which around 3.500 answered) and who had considered essential freedom of expression!


Considering that…. a supposed “clarification” to Rule 50.2 was wrongly and irresponsibly made, allowing athletes to defend their own views (either political, religious or any other) at the time of the Olympic Games (except in now still “limited circumstances”: during the Official Ceremonies, the Competitions and in the Olympic Village …. !)


In fact, objectively, that represents the danger of the known “sliding slope”: starting with a minor opening of a closed door, easy will be in the future to open it completely! And then……how can that contribute to Peace promotion?


In conclusion: we are quietly approaching the same end as that of the Games in Greece, but much more quickly, as everything nowadays happens faster. The Olympic Games will cease to be neutral and a road to Peace.


Fortunately there will always remain the Circus performances and the World’s Championships” ……..