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The Essential Thing in Life is not Conquering but Fighting Well

Whatever your thoughts about the Olympic Games, I ask you to bear with me for this piece.

Forget for a while the ridiculous over-commercialisation of it all and its ludicrous number of corporate sponsor partners. Leave aside the moron who mixed up the flags of North and South Korea. And finally, if you have no interest at all in athletics, feel free to leave aside all the sport too. It doesn’t really matter.

The spirit of the Olympics is what excites me now as the gaze of the whole world turns tonight to a stadium barely 10 minutes away from my home. The spirit need not necessarily relate to sport at all. This is what the Olympics represents:

  • An obsession with excellence
  • Setting high standards to live by
  • Committing to live by these standards. Those who pay mere lip service to them will not win
  • Making the most of your potential, and often surpassing what you thought you were capable of
  • Ascetic simplicity on a quest for personal satisfaction and the reward of doing something to the best of your ability
  • The important thing is not winning, but taking part
  • The essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well
So even if you are not bothered about sport, I urge you to watch some of the Olympic Games. Watch people trying hard, with every fibre of their body and soul, to accomplish something they have worked so hard for. If that doesn’t inspire you and make the hairs stand up on your neck then I don’t think anything will!
Find something you love. Do it a lot. Do it well. Do it with every ounce of your being.

There was an interesting interview with John Major on Radio 4 this morning. He thought that the legacy of the Olympics were the consequences of watching so much enthusiasm and effort to achieve difficult things. This can generate the potential for people to become “fit not fat” and to join “teams not gangs”.

I anticipate spending much of the next couple of weeks “working” in front of the TV. I can’t wait!

Here are a few little video clips from the Olympics to get you in the mood…

start this at 1 min 30:

And finally, here’s Boris!

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  1. You’re right. It’s just a shame we have to look past the ridiculous corporate/commercial stuff at all. I’ll try to remember your points at tonight’s British Embassy shindig here in Armenia!

  2. Emma Ross Posted

    I have that photo torn out of a newspaper and it sits in front of my mirror to remind me every day

  3. Nice piece Al – I intend on spending a lot of time in front of a Rwandan TV working / watching epic sporting achievement too. And I agree with Tom that it’s a shame we have to look past the commercialisation of the Olympics at all, but without that funding the Olympics simply wouldn’t take place. It’s a shame, but a fact.

    And another fact in a similar vein: whereas the London 2012 Opening Ceremony is costing £27m, the entire 1948 London Games cost £70,000. For everything. That simple fact plants in me a nostalgia moment….

  4. Russell Palmer Posted

    Well said Al. After watching the YouTube clip on Derek Redmond, I can’t help but be reminded of the sad sight of Fabien Cancelara coming in at the end of the Mens’ cycling Road race with a suspected broken collar bone. Bang goes his chances for the road race and for the individual time trial this coming week.

  5. Denise George Posted

    fear is the vanguard of wisdom…ramble on, walk on, fight on…love the true idealism here.



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