I love the Olympics. I love what they stand for, what they promote, what they create and what they produce.
I believe in Olympism as a “philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.
The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” (www.olympic.org)
I love the Olympics because of how it moves people beyond what we believe is possible. To excel in being human. It’s an opportunity to realise your gifts and your limits under extreme circumstances. Take Olympic Hockey for example, no fighting allowed or tolerated, and egos are more balanced because they aren’t playing for money, they are playing for the love of the game and for their country. I imagine the pressure is overwhelming, particularly for our Canadians who arrive with a sizable expectation from their nation and dare I say, the world. We will love them anyway, because it’s the effort that we appreciate. The effort, the commitment, the diligence, the skill, the drive, the persistence and the unwillingness to accept ‘good’, because they are looking for ‘best’.
It reminds me of a swimmer at the Syndey 2000 Olympics who came in last, way last in one of the heats, but was the best swimmer in his country. And he finished to a standing ovation and cheers that raised the roof. Effort = Acknowledgement. He was loved because he tried, because he did not quit. He won because he had the courage to enter.
There is no better competition than that, playing for something bigger than yourself that collects a nation and world under one purpose and one vision.
For me, the opportunity to have worked with five different Organising Committee’s for both Summer and Winter Olympic Games has provided me with some of the most amazing moments of my life, not to mention friends. One was the hardest job I’ve ever had, another was the best (so far). There were moments of incredible frustration, exhilaration, triumph and mind bending tiredness. If you want a challenge, seek an Olympic opportunity. It’s a chess match at an intense level of play and requires indelible focus. It will make you better.
As Organisers we are looking for ‘best Games ever’ which is rarely handed out anymore, I believe in fear of challenging nations to make it bigger rather than just better. We are Olympians of a different form, but ultimately the goal is to make it as easy as possible for the athletes to do something that is not easy. This should be the goal for any leader, to provide the venue, the tools and the resources to make it as easy as possible for your team to do what you have asked them to do.
Olympians are leaders, whether born or trained into existence. They are the ones we measure what ‘good looks like’ in terms of sport and fair play and tenacity. We could learn a lot from these athletes that give up years of their life to compete for our country in a moment that could result in great success or great loss. The gift for me is always when a nation holds up athletes that have faced disappointment. Because we recognise that there wasn’t a lack of effort, but instead a commitment to try and that is all we need to stand up.
The Olympics are chalked full of lessons. It’s a great display of leadership, there is a lot to learn from those who continue to get up and try again and again. There is more to learn from those that celebrate a bronze medal or the success of their competitor. The Olympians are leaders because they are constantly looking at what they did, what they can change and what it takes to be better. This is exactly what you should do as a leader with your team. Your goal and your focus should be to move them faster, higher…stronger, to make them better. To challenge them, to strengthen them, to celebrate them. If you move your focus from you to them, you will play with different motivation. It’s how teams are built, it’s how heroes are built, heck its how Nations are built.
And I bet if you ask any of the Men’s Olympic Hockey Team from the Vancouver 2010 Gold Medal Match, there is nothing they would trade for that winning moment. The world stood still and I swear held their breath. It is history, it is our history.
So watch, watch our athletes play for you. Watch at 2AM or 2PM. Have TVs in the classrooms, set your alarms to watch in the early hours of any day, get snacks, invite friends, and cheer loud. Be a part of something that is bigger than you, something that is all about working hard, trying hard and playing hard. Celebrate your team, learn, implement change and be an example of good, be an Olympian.
Go Canada Go!
Silken Laumann, Canadian Olympian
It’s important to know that at the end of the day it’s not the medals you remember. What you remember is the process — what you learn about yourself by challenging yourself, the experiences you share with other people, the honesty the training demands — those are things nobody can take away from you whether you finish twelfth or you’re an Olympic Champion.”