The next Olympics ‘Rio 2016 ‘ will predominate August. The founder once said: ‘the Olympics are a pilgrimage to the past and an act of faith in the future’ (Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the Olympic movement). It aims to promote good relationships between the five continents that send athletes to compete.
Another important symbol is the Olive Wreath (also called ‘kotinos’). At the ancient Olympic games there were no gold, silver or bronze medals. There was only one winner per event, crowned with an olive wreath made of wild olive leaves. You may remember that when the summer Olympics were held in Greece in 2004 they presented olive wreaths in honour of the ancient tradition.
In the Holy Bible the imagery of the wreath crown is referred to as an exhortation to give everything to following Jesus Christ: ‘everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever’ (1 Corinthians 9v25). Paul was writing to a church in ancient Corinth that held the second largest Games, celebrated every two years on the Isthmian peninsula (the neck of land that connected with the rest of the mainland of Greece). These games had extravagant festivals of religion, athletics and the arts, attracting thousands of competitors and visitors from all over the empire. Their wreaths were made of withered celery!
But why this athletic imagery? The apostle Paul speaks about how his own goal was to win the “race” of the Christian life, not to lose it. It is too precious to play around with and potentially miss or squander what is most precious. Jesus’ followers are to adopt the same degree of self-control as an athlete, who was involved in a strict training programme: a combination of physical exercise, care over their lifestyle to ensure that they were in top condition for their race. The followers of Jesus should also be disciplined, resisting the temptation to give way to temptation and battling against the dominance of sin. His people are to aim for the imperishable crown, which lasts forever.
So, take inspiration from the athletes that you watch. Commit yourself to following Jesus Christ: he alone can present us with the crown of life. It is up to us to stay on track and to follow him.