In recent years, the Olympic Games have faced innumerable challenges over affordability; security for athletes, officials, and spectators; and drug-enhanced performances.
Even 20 years ago, in my work with the US Olympic Congress, we debated whether the Olympics had outgrown their usefulness – their value as a measure of personal and international achievement – as well as their attraction for TV audiences.
Do the Games still matter? Are TV ads reaching enough viewers? How does a gold medal measure up to a multimillion-dollar baseball contract or a Super Bowl ring?
As the participants ski, skate, dance, and leap into the Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, this week, those questions loom large in the minds of many people. But most of them will be hoping that the spectacle and the evidence of hard-earned skills, courage, and gracefulness will restore confidence in this opportunity for nations to celebrate the spiritual rewards of sportsmanship distinguished by honesty and fairness. Many of us will have to be content to enjoy the Games vicariously, though live transmissions can sweep us right into the snow and ice.
Let’s not underestimate the contribution we can make through prayer. Whatever our religious persuasion, we can pray for the safety of ski jumpers poised on the edge of the platform:
The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deut. 33:27).
We can pray for sure-footedness for speed skaters with helmets bent low as they negotiate each dizzying turn: Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip (Ps. 18:36).
We can pray for poise, timing, and concentration as figure skaters steady themselves before a daring triple axel or salchow: Every athlete exercises self-control in all things (I Cor. 9:25,
English Standard Version).
Such Scriptures may have inspired conclusions drawn by the Monitor’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, who wrote in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” that material laws cannot “overrule the might of divine Mind” (p. 128). She pointed out that understanding God and His government enhances people’s “endurance and mental powers,” enabling them “to exceed their ordinary capacity.” She wrote that “the human mind, imbued with this spiritual understanding, becomes more elastic, is capable of greater endurance, escapes somewhat from itself, and requires less repose. A knowledge of the Science of being develops the latent abilities and possibilities of man.”
The “might of divine Mind” – the power of the presence of God – brings inspiration, balance, creativity, and joy to everything we do, inside and outside the Olympics. It’s also the highest form of security the Vancouver organizers could have. The one Mind is never distracted, tired, or bored. Those obedient to this Mind can be guided by spiritual intuition and wisdom, and alertness in their duties.
God’s presence, guiding and protecting, will become increasingly evident as spiritual thinkers around the world join in praying for the smooth passage and success of the Winter Games – as they pray to know that God is never off-guard, and will be with everyone throughout every event.