Father Peter Clarke

From the Diocese of Bridgetown

Farewell Rio!

Farewell Rio!

For a very short time people throughout the world were thinking Olympics, feeling Olympics, rejoicing and crying over Olympics, cheering and cursing over Olympics. All the means of Social Communication were super-saturated with news and views about the Olympics.

Most significantly it was the Olympics that dominated the Newscasts and the Headlines – taking pride-of-place and most of the space. Few must have been the preachers who did not mention the Olympics in their sermons and conjure up some weighty spiritual message out of a sporting event.

There was something all-embracing about Rio...such a huge variety of events, from horse-riding to rowing, waving swords to hurling javelins, jumping to running to diving, etc., etc. Then there were competitors and spectators representing such a variety of nations, cultures and creeds.

People went 'Olympian' to please and to be pleased.

We, the World,wanted the very best – medals, record-breaking results, national pride and glory! In crowd reaction and from media commentary I detected an even-handed appreciation of excellence – even though this had been achieved by a rival to one's own national competitor.

I could not fail to notice that those who had competed so strenuously against one another were for the most part generous in congratulating the winners and sensitive in consoling the losers and even injured.

To tell the truth, I was greatly relieved. I had feared, not without reason, that some terrorist would seize the opportunity to inflict a horrific tragedy on this excited, good-willed crowd. I prayed, and I prayed, that our Heavenly Father would prevent this from happening. I am certain that people throughout the world would have done the same.

Throughout the weeks and months before the Olympics athletics had been under a very dark cloud. For some years it had been bad enough that some competitors had been enhancing their performance with forbidden substances – cheating! Inspiring heroes were reducedinto being fallen idols. Disillusioned youngsters needed to be persuaded that in the real world deceit is not to be the way to greatness.

As never before we have been made aware of the extent to which systematic cheating had infiltrated and taken over sporting activities - substance abuse, match-fixing, money switching...

sometimes backed by frightening intimidation.

I personally longed that these Olympics would be free of scandals that inevitably lead to bitterness, shame, anger and cynicism. I would like to think that in the recent Olympics idealism prevailed – the simple view that every kind of sport is meant to be enjoyable, good for one's health as well as being character building.

Am I being naive, simplistic, in suggesting that those who participated in these Olympics, the spectators and those who followed them yearned for more than breath-taking spectacles? They longed for integrity, innocence, a purity of heart... genuineness.

Might not this decency overflow into the nitty-gritty of every-day life...into our homes, neighbourhoods, work-places, into commercial-financial life, and politics?

I pray we shall not be hearing recent super-stars having attempted to be artful- dodgers. May these our day-dreams not turn into nightmares!

Peter Clarke, OP

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