Fireworks illuminate the night sky during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games at the National Stadium in Beijing, Feb. 4, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]
When viewed through the prism of Chinese history, the Olympic and Paralympic Games of 2022 are the culmination of an extraordinary evolution: starting from a peaceful sporting competition in 776 B.C. between bellicose Greek city states in the neutral venue of Olympia to an event that unites thousands of athletes from around the world in China's capital Beijing for a celebration of the human spirit.
Ancient literary sources recorded that Koroibos – a cook, baker and athlete – won the stadion race, a foot race 600 feet long that was the only event for the first 13 Olympic Games. From the very start there were measures to keep the Games non-political. The competing states were often in conflict at this time but they agreed and respected an "Olympic truce" to enable athletes from all city states to travel safely to Olympia for the Games.
The first edition of the modern Olympic Games was staged in Athens, Greece, in 1896, while the first winter edition was held in Chamonix, France, in 1924. The founders of the modern Games proclaimed them to be truly international and non-political.
Throughout their history the Games have had to surmount their use for political purposes. They have also successfully pursued inclusion of all nations, genders and a growing number of sporting disciplines.
The 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Games are once again being hosted by China. Athletes are gathering under the constraints of a global pandemic, with the men and women we see competing having surmounted enormous personal challenges and obstacles to be in Beijing. People around the world join these athletes each day to affirm the peaceful legacy of the Olympic spirit. China and its people deserve respect and recognition for having assumed this international legacy at a difficult moment for international cooperation.
All the athletes participating in the 2022 Winter Games are Olympic champions. The modest baker-athlete who won the first Olympic race in 776 B.C. set a standard for his time and for all times. The path from that time to our own and to the achievements of 21st century athletes such as Gu Ailing and her counterparts from around the world is a testament to the enduring spirit of the Olympic Games, and their ability to inspire us all.
The founder of the modern Games, Pierre de Coubertin, once proclaimed:
"The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part; the important thing in Life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well. To spread these principles is to build up a strong and more valiant and, above all, more scrupulous and more generous humanity."
From the long view of history, the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics are a win-win both for those taking part and for all the rest of us.
Jean-Guy Carrier is non-resident senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China, and executive chairman of Silk Road Chamber of International Commerce.
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