Perhaps the most famous Christian name associated with the modern Olympics is that of Eric Liddell, who refused to run on his Sabbath during the 1924 games in Paris, France. Standing on principle seemed to cost Liddell a sure chance of a gold medal. Instead of competing in his best event—the 100 metres—he spoke at a local church that day, and later ran the 400-metre race, which wasn’t his strong suit. Yet Liddell won the 400, five metres ahead of his nearest competitor! You may have seen or heard of the motion picture Chariots of Fire, which tells Liddell’s dramatic story. But you may not know the end of the tale: Liddell went to China, was a prisoner there during World War II and died a few weeks before the conflict ended. The Christian History Institute1 offers what it calls a “glimpse” of Liddell’s life story.
Modern Olympians have their own challenges and triumphs when it comes to integrating faith into their lives. In the United States, at least five of the Olympic competitors profess Christian faith, and you can find links to their stories at the About.com website2. Each of the five share their personal testimonies, life lessons in faith and insight as to who helps motivate them.
Behind the scenes, Olympic coaches have the opportunity to not only help athletes compete but also to have a winning Christian walk. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ Sharing the Victory magazine3 features a story along these lines. There are good insights here for any Christian involved in coaching young competitors.
The need for proper behaviour in sports is emphasised by one Christian blogger, “Pastor John,” who asserts, “the manner you participate in sports as a Christian reflects your heart before God.”
His complete essay on Christian Sportsmanship4 was authored in the summer of 2007, but it might well be useful to some headed for Beijing even now.
Of course, the teaching of good sportsmanship should begin long before a competitor is on their way to an Olympic competition.
An article at FamilyEducation.com, a US-based website, discusses the need for inculcating good sportsmanship in children5 and offers some practical advice for parents at important stages.
By the time this article appears in print, however, it will be time to sit back and marvel at the many achievements of valiant competitors in Beijing. If you’re not aware, the Australian Olympic Team’s website6 is a great place to go and learn more about the athletes who will put forth a huge effort in the quadrennial event.