[Outlook]One world, one dream

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[Outlook]One world, one dream

‘Citius, Altius, Fortius” is the Latin motto for the Olympics created by Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Games. The motto translates as “Faster, Higher, Stronger.”

In the fourth Olympics in London in 1908, de Coubertin said that just as it is more important to try than to succeed in life, what’s more important in the Olympics is not victory, but participation. Competing well, not winning, is the most vital aspect of any Games, he concluded.

These words, said precisely 100 years ago, still well describe the spirit of the Olympics.

At 8 p.m. on Aug. 8, 2008, the 29th Summer Olympics will begin at the National Stadium, dubbed the “Bird’s Nest,” in Beijing, China. This is 2,784 years after the first ancient Olympics were held in Olympia, Greece. The Chinese chose the time and the date because eight is considered a lucky number there.

These days, there is no god that all people will worship together, like Zeus in Greek mythology. But people around the globe desire peace, just like the ancient Greeks. Laurels or gold medals can’t be more important than peace. That is the ultimate goal that de Coubertin wanted to fulfill through the Olympics.

In the times of the ancient Greeks, battles of all kinds never stopped. Thus, the Olympics offered relief and joy for the citizens who were tired of warfare. When the athletes’ festival was held in Olympia on the western shore of the Peloponnesian Peninsula, a truce of up to three years was declared in order to protect not only citizens of Greece’s city states, but also athletes and pilgrims who visited Olympia by sea or land from as far away as Spain and North Africa.

The Beijing Olympics will be attended by more than 10,000 athletes from some 200 countries. We hope that there will be peace and rest during the Olympics, just as in the ancient Games. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently suggested to all UN member countries around the world the idea of having a truce during the Olympics.

The reality, however, remains harsh. Even at this moment, ethnic cleansing is still going on in Sudan, in Africa. Terror attacks continuously take place in many places around the world, such as Iraq, India and Pakistan. Even in China, insecure feelings, rather than a peaceful atmosphere, cast a dark shadow. As a bomb attack took place in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, Beijing is extremely alert and nervous.

For the ancient Olympics, messengers who wore laurels and carried sticks were sent all over to deliver the truce declaration. However, in the most recent Olympic torch relay, the equivalent of the ancient messengers seemed to deepen conflicts instead of sending a message of peace. The torch was made not to go out even at the top of Mount Everest, but the sacred flame was extinguished in Paris by protesters during the relay.

Despite disputes about boycotting the Games due to China’s crackdown on Tibetan demonstrators, the Beijing Olympics is finally to start tomorrow and will be attended by leaders of some 90 countries around the world. Through the Olympics, we should confirm once again the world’s determination to attain and preserve peace. We should become interested in urgent issues, such as a collective response to global warming, support for underdeveloped countries, such as African nations that are ridden with starvation and disease, enhancement of freedom and human rights and expansion of democracy.

Twenty years ago, Korea successfully hosted the 1988 Olympic Games, receiving praise from the world. Korea is now advancing to take a central role on the global stage and it thus must respond to these global peace-related issues. We Koreans have been described both inside and outside the country as excessively nationalistic. We should change, and be reborn as citizens of the globe at this year’s Olympics.

It may be less exciting to watch the Games if we don’t think about the number of gold medals that Korean athletes get or the rank of the country. However, we should just enjoy watching the Games, as they are the festival of peace.

Let’s take a moment to think what the Beijing Olympic slogan, “One World, One Dream,” really means.

*The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Han Kyung-hwan
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