In the words of the great American athlete, Jesse Owens, “The only victory that counts is the one over yourself.” This sentiment echoes the preamble of the latest Olympic Charter, which states, “The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” This noble ideal, rooted in ancient Greek tradition, is as relevant today as it was millennia ago.

However, the Olympic Games have undergone significant changes over the years. In 1974, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) removed the requirement for athletes to be amateurs from the Olympic Charter. By 1988, professional athletes were allowed to compete, a decision left to individual sporting federations. This marked a departure from the original values of the Games.

The original motto, “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” (Faster, Higher, Stronger) has been recently augmented by “Communiter,” (Together). While this addition seems commendable, it falls short of encapsulating the essence of collective humanism. As the legendary basketball player, Michael Jordan, once said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” The new motto may inadvertently foster individualistic instincts among participants, who may prioritize personal success and sponsorships over broader social benefits.

The Olympic Games have evolved into a major business event, attracting a global audience. This has led to a surge in ticket prices, rendering them unaffordable for many. Local federations, beneficiaries of the revenue generated by the Games, often interpret the Olympic values through a lens of individualism and performance.

Those who are not physically gifted, such as the overweight, elderly, or otherwise, are often excluded from clubs due to perceived lower chances of success. While some are eligible to participate in adaptive sports, the majority have largely vanished from the sporting landscape.

Interestingly, the most financially comfortable individuals are often spectators, ticket buyers, or bettors, enjoying the sport from the comfort of their homes. Some sporting events, like public marathons, have expanded their recruitment, yet running clubs still maintain eligibility requirements that exclude some people, despite receiving public funding.

Few sports activities have retained the sport’s original values, based on enjoyment and inclusion of all people as a means to improve humanity. The current trend is global, reminiscent of the 1936 Olympic Games, which, thankfully, failed to prove Aryan superiority.

The Olympic Games should be a global celebration, not a business event that excludes those who need it most to participate in sports. Regrettably, this does not seem to be the case for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. As the renowned American swimmer, Michael Phelps, put it, “You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get.” If we are to make a meaningful impact on the world, the Olympic Games should be a primary focus.

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