The stunning displays, the diverse landscapes, and the astounding feats of the Winter Olympics have already begun to fade away with their closing. However, a question lingers in the wake of their pomp and glory: are these wonders realistic?
Often, the Olympic Games are portrayed as the epitome of success. After all, everything about them—from the medals, to the laurel wreaths, to the proud fanfare—speak of glory and honor.
Certainly any parent would love to see their child standing on the pedestal, receiving a medal while the national anthem plays. And surely almost any person would love to be the one standing on that pedestal, receiving the acclaim.
However, I wonder, has our culture taken this ideal too far?
According to Dr. Scot Bruce, Assistant Professor of History, American culture has drifted from celebrating excellence to an unhealthy obsession with it as a form of entertainment.
“Our culture has built up around celebrating entertainment as one of the primary functions of our society,” he said. “We’ve fallen in love as a culture with the superficial and the trite.”
Instead of emphasizing virtue, honor, and societal productivity, Bruce noted, culture now focuses on fame, especially in athletics.
In his view, the Olympics, though not inherently wrong, merely demonstrate a symptom of an already sickened society.
As Dr. Shannon Simmons, Assistant Professor of Human Performance, pointed out, idolization is not limited to the Olympian realm. She believes it also appears clearly in the professional sports arenas as well.
“It becomes more about showmanship,” she said. “I feel like the Olympics embody a striving for excellence in athletics, while professional sports like the NFL promote more idolization.”
Heather Halfman, one of the members of the women’s cross country team, agreed that Olympic athletes can still demonstrate worthy traits. “I think that, in a way, they should be more of our role models than people on T.V.,” she said. “They actually work hard and are dedicated, compared to the other role models you find.”
Although Bruce and Simmons both endorsed the value of these traits and of athletic involvement, they recognized the potential of corruption within the field.
“There is a fine line between acknowledgement of the gifts we possess and arrogance,” Bruce said.
Bruce believes people should be encouraged to compete and bring their God-given talents to fruition, but with less of an emphasis on their own personal success and more on the experience.
For the Christian, the challenge is resisting society’s drive toward stardom and success by adopting what Bruce referred to as a more “holistic” worldview.
He suggests that gifts should be prayerfully considered while prioritizing the things of ultimate future value.
“I would say to enjoy the process, but realize in the end that you will probably do something else, and that’s just fine,” Bruce said.
As an athlete, he himself had to make this choice in college, evaluating his track and football talents and openly considering God’s plan for his life.
Judging from his experience and observations, he suggested being prepared for a number of occupations instead of focusing on athletics in the hopes of becoming one of the few successes.
“The key focus is ‘how do I serve God?’ If that, for a time, is athletically, then fantastic, [but] life and service to the Lord will likely mean something beyond athletics,” he said.
Thumbnail courtesy of flickr- Paul Nuttall