The Olympic Games are once again upon us. I speak of the upcoming Winter Olympic Games. Beijing is poised to serve as gracious host once again, this time to the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, after being widely lauded for successfully hosting the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. The first city bestowed the honor of hosting both the Summer and Winter Games.
Unfortunately, I speak as well of the games that nations, with their views tainted by politics, sometimes play. Although disappointing, it appears apparent that we have yet to find our high note, our gold standard as humans. At a time when, on the precipice of celebration, so many athletes will strive to reach their own high note and achieve their own gold standard. Aspiring, inspiring each other for a fortnight in February.
For this is the spirit of the Olympics. The Olympics’ spirit and purpose are served not through intolerance and disharmony but through acceptance and cooperation-and, dare I say, also through the love and feeling of well-being for one another as members of one global society. For love is what we find common at the core, what binds us all, regardless of race, culture, nationality or variations thereof.
We must strive to stand together in such a spirit, as symbolized by the Olympics, and refrain from withholding participation of officials which, I believe, risks compromising our inherent dignity and integrity for means and ends that only serve to separate us further from the truth of our shared destiny.
Why is this important? Beyond its historical significance, the Winter Games comes at a time when humanity has been challenged like few times before-and issued an ultimatum that either we come together or fall apart.
The COVID-19 pandemic. Climate change. Global terrorism. Countries such as China have been facing storm upon storm, weathering it through collective consciousness, remarkably so given the stakes. Overcoming the odds of a menacing viral force, moving in concert with a greener, better world, meeting aggression with acts of moral integrity-achieved only by working together. Unite in the spirit of, if not in adherence to, the “Olympic Truce” as set forward by the United Nations. Or risk further separation from one another and a preferred destiny, the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
The Beijing Winter Olympic Truce Resolution on “building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal” the UN adopted on Dec 2 calls on member states to promote peace, dialogue and reconciliation through sports, and asks countries to cease hostilities from seven days before the Winter Olympic Games until seven days after the Winter Paralympic Games.
The approach that China has taken toward the 2022 Winter Games is emblematic of the UN resolution and demonstrative of the efforts and spirit required to emerge victorious at the greater game upon us.
There are games of sport, and there are games of politics and rhetoric. Then there are the games of life, far more consequential in the future we share.
The pandemic, climate change and terrorism. These are the games we must win. And in the Olympic spirit, we praise the athletes that elevate sports to the greatest heights. Finding the strength, courage and conviction that precede moments as these, moments that demand the very best from us. Serving as symbol and metaphor to excel in the greater game upon us. In such a spirit, humankind must transcend its competitive inclination to embrace its cooperative nature-a nature that better serves our present and future world.
The purpose of the Games is to build a more cooperative spirit rather than a competitive one. While athletes and countries compete across an array of sporting events, it is the cooperative nature that allows for such a possibility. We have nearly 3,000 years of Olympic history to validate this.
I know the International Olympic Committee and its president Thomas Bach would concur, given their statement pledging full support to China-“ready to continue its (IOC’s) close cooperation with China”-in the lead up to the Games.
In this spirit, politics that tends to polarize, as opposed to unify, ought to sit this one out. The purpose of the Olympic Games is to help unite the world under a common flag, which has no room for actors that serve to distance us from what is our unifying truth.
Let us move our attention to those worthy of our praise. To the individual athletes soon to descend upon Beijing. To those who have overcome great odds to climb up to the grandest stage in their respective disciplines. To the participating countries striving for their own version of greatness. In a world that acts as a gauntlet, one that must be overcome so that all receive their due reward-of a shared future.
So let the Games begin. Games filled with anticipation, of shining moments on a stage built through the common will of humankind.
And may the 2022 Winter Olympic Games be symbolic of the greater game we face, of the opportunities that await us all beyond the current adversity.
The author is consul general of China in Belfast, Northern Ireland.