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The religious spirit of the Olympic Games

The religious spirit of the Olympic Games

USA Today as a multimedia slideshow entitled “The Religious Spirit of the Olympic Games.

The introduction says:

In the beginning, when the ancient Greeks centered an athletic competition around a festival honoring Zeus in 776 BC, the Olympics were steeped in religion. Even the mottos we take for granted originated from faith-based concepts. While the Olympics have largely strayed from their religious roots, here are few moments from history when religion and the Games have intersected.

Slide #4 is particularly interesting to The Episcopal Cafe:

Ethelbert Talbot

The first time London hosted the Olympic Games was 1908. Before the games, Anglican bishop Ethelbert Talbot, left, said, “The most important thing in these Olympics is not so much winning as taking part.” Those words eventually became part of the Olympic creed. Grantland Rice, a sportswriter of the early-20th century, penned a popular adaptation of the phrase in his poem Football Alumnus: “For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, he writes — not that you won or lost — but how you played the game.”

Courtesy of Richard Mammana,

The article by Henry G. Brition that accompanies the slideshow is worth considering as well:

I don’t believe the Olympics should be a religion. But I also don’t think athletic competition should be completely secular. Sports and religion belong together because health involves both body and soul. At the London Olympics, some representatives of majority Muslim countries have complained that the Games are during Ramadan, when Muslims are required to fast from sunrise to sunset. They say this will put their athletes at a disadvantage.

They have a point. Christians would be perturbed if the Games were held during Holy Week, just as Jews would object if they were asked to compete on Yom Kippur. In London, Olympic organizers are making an effort to help Muslims cope by providing food at night (when Muslims can eat during Ramadan), and offering special evening snack packs for breaking the fast.

Briton suggests that the Olympics should reclaim its connection to religion:

As for the Olympics, perhaps the opening ceremonies should have had a celebration of religions as well as a parade of nations. Most of the world’s great faiths honor both body and spirit, and encourage health and vitality. This would correct the error made by the ancient Greeks (antagonism between the physical and spiritual), and would pay tribute to the religious leaders who made the modern Olympics possible. It could even inspire a few religious people to get off the couch and into the gym.


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Bill Dilworth

I was struck by the religious slant of the official Olympic Anthem, also known as the Olympic Hymn:

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