The dictionary defines excellence as the quality of being outstanding or extremely good. The International Olympic Committee promotes respect, friendship and excellence as core values of the Olympic Movement. Propagating these values is the responsibility of the Olympic movement led by the respective National Olympic Committees.
It’s a difficult role and responsibility given the ever changing landscape that is contemporary society. Pierre Coubertin- founder of the modern Olympic movement articulated the following:
• Joy of effort in sport and physical activity;
• Fair play;
• Respect for others
• Pursuit of excellence;
• Balance between body, will and mind.
However for the majority of people including many National Olympic Committees it is an Olympic medal preferably gold that defines excellence. What exactly is the pursuit of excellence? For some excellence is not just about winning. Sport inspires people in all walks of life to strive for excellence. There are no shortcuts to excellence.
Supporting the elite aspirations of those who aspire to win medals is a topic that causes significant discussions. Not everyone is of the view that elite level athletes should be supported. It may rankle some especially those of us who see the power of sport making a difference on a daily basis. But it is important to listen to the argument made by those who don’t support sport.
It’s a complicated issue that is shaped by individual experience, upbringing and perceptions. That sport is given special consideration is a source of resentment in some circles. Those of us who argue vehemently and passionately that the development of physical skills and positive motivation that comes from success in team and individual competition inspire the desire to pursue excellence must accept that not everyone buys the party line.
Sport at its best can help young people develop positive mental, social and psychological skills. But it has to be acknowledged that when sport is used for negative reasons it paints an ugly picture. It is in this respect that national sport organisations must be very conscious of the need to maintain the positive image and attributes of sport.
In embracing the duality of our human experience we find the ability to reach deep within ourselves and produce what we choose to define as excellence. In helping young athletes to pursue excellence we emphasize hope. Encourage positivity, set expectations and demand accountability. If we are to inspire champions it can’t be at the expense of the totality of human experience.
Excellence in many ways defines the experience of sport and the Olympic Movement. Aspiring for excellence in all that you do on and off the field is a worthy endeavour. Let’s continue to strive for excellence in life through sport. But let’s also embrace the challenge that sport isn’t a cure all and that making the argument for sport requires giving careful thought and consideration to different views.
Sport ought not to be used as a bully pulpit.
• Brian Lewis is the president of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Olympic Committee.