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Edwin Moses: An Olympic message

The Olympic flag with the National Stadium in the background and the Olympic flame.

I have two very strong impressions that I am reminded of as I sit in my home watching the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. My first impression is just the sheer beauty and magnificence of all the colors, representing the national garb and flags of the 204 countries and territories, in Beijing.

Tell me, really: Have you even heard of them all? Be truthful now. Chances are that nearly all of us heard Friday night of a country or territory that we didn't know existed. That we are now aware of some of these foreign places, however so slightly (those that would easily be the toughest questions on anyone’s geography exam), in my humble experience, helps to make the world a better place to live.

At a minimum, the Chinese people and all of humanity have put our best feet forward.

And that brings me to my second impression. Without a doubt, there is absolutely no other event on the planet that has so much meaning and can have such an enormous effect on so many people. These are the elite, a group of people so dedicated. Though they are quite young now, they will be the future leaders of the world. Not just in sports but in education, banking, medicine, public service, broadcasting, politics, law, science, farming, research, you just name it, and there are leaders available left, right and center.

As a three-time participant in the Olympic Games -- '76, '84 and 1988 (and every opening ceremony that I could get my body into) -- I personally experienced what I can only hope to describe to you in this article. Believe me when I tell you this: My life would never be the same again. The force was with me and has been ever since my first ceremony in the Montreal Olympics in 1976. Little did I expect that I would be a gold medalist just six months after my first international competition.

The Olympics are absolutely the most energizing and fantastic event held on planet Earth. If there is something else you can think of, then please let me know. I am chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy, which has a membership of some of the greatest Olympians ever. We are led by the following motto that was taken from a speech by former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa:

"Sport has the power to change the world, it can give hope were there once was despair."

As I continue to write my impressions during the Games, I promise to my readers that I'll do one and only one thing: I'll call it the way I see it. Thanks for reading.

-- Edwin Moses

Photo: The Olympic flag with the National Stadium in the background and the Olympic flame. Credit: Mark D. Baker / Associated Press

 
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Comments (15)

Mr. Moses, your view of the world and the importance for us to be more educated in it is very commendable. Yes, it is a time to be proud of one's country its accomplishments but this should not prevent us to appreciate and admire the beauty of other nations. Thanks for putting your thoughts on virtual paper." I will be following your blog for futher insights that you can uniquely bring to us.

I totally agree with the writing.

Olympic time is a time to do our best, all of us, around the world. This is th way to have peace. We need to have internal peace first.

Nice to hear from one our greatest athletes. I'll look forward to other posts from
Mr. Moses, particularly on the track and field events.

Diana Witt

Great to hear from Edwin Moses. I saw him on my TV at each of his three Olympics. As an amateur runner I was awed by his fluid power. His long string of victories was simply amazing. Most amazing of all, he is known to be a wonderful human being. The world itself is better off for the likes of Edwin Moses.

Every time that I see Edwin Moses' name it makes me smile. He is one of my favorite athletes of all time. I recall watching his performance at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, the perfect choice for the person who took the oath on behalf of all the athletes.

Hurdlers rock. Edwin Moses is awesome. Nuff said.

thanks for this Edwin.

I know the motto you mean to quote is that sport can give hope "where" there was once despair.

For accuracy you might want to update that.

Cheers

mr moses, who was that american women chewing gum or her cud in the usa walk around ? why would she do that? don't they teach our olympians anything on how to behave in public or on world wide tv, her family must be so proud

Toward the issue of elite athleticism providing the well-source of dignity and leadership, the author of the article himself - Edwin Moses - has long been my choice for archetype.

When I was young, I made a point to watch his meets when he raced locally - Hayward Field, U of O, Eugene, OR.

He was an inspiration for his great strength and dignity then and is no less today.

Interesting statements, especially the following:
"These are the elite, a group of people so dedicated. Though they are quite young now, they will be the future leaders of the world. Not just in sports but in education, banking, medicine, public service, broadcasting, politics, law, science, farming, research, you just name it, and there are leaders available left, right and center"

Yes, those young men and women are the elite in their sports. However, I doubt very much that they will be leaders in areas such as science, research, medicine or banking. The leaders in those fields will be those young people who dedicate themselves to studying in those areas. In the same way that someone who spends 40 hours/week studying their math, chemistry, biology, finance, etc... will most likely never be an olympian, I doubt that someone who spends countless hours improving their swimming stroke or running technique can excel at those intellectual fields. Not that they don't have the capacity, but there simply is not enough time in the week to do extremely well in both types of fields. Name me, from the field of all athletes, anyone that is a true leader in medicine or research. I am not writing this to denigrate anyone, but I feel that too much emphasis is placed on sport in our culture. We don't talk about the countless athletes who give their all only to be destroyed by an injury. We don't talk about the athletes who came in 4th or 5th or 10th. The problem is that you can be totally dedicated and spend a gazillion hours practicing, but if another human being who happens to have just a little bit more God given talent is also working just as hard, you will probably lose. On the other hand, if you dedicate yourself to studying in one of the fields mentioned by Mr. Moses, you don't have to be the best (or among the top 3) to make it. This is particularly important to realize when you have so many poor kids who think that the key to getting out of their situation is to make it in some sport. It is 100's of times easier to make it as a lawyer or doctor or businessman than it is to make it in sport.
Yes sport is important, but one should stop short of trying to convince young people that if they dedicate themselves to it they will be leaders in other fields. If you want to be the best in sports, dedicate yourself to it. But if you want to be a leader in science, dedicate yourself to your studying.
And Mr. Moses, I do appreciate what you have done and how you have allowed many a young athlete to realize that they can (but not necessarily will) be the best only trhough dedication and hard work. But excellence in sports is quite a different thing from excellence in the scientific area.

mr moses- thank you for your contribution to american olympic history.

Henrick- Lets not make the dumb jock assumption. People with the drive to become olympians often can translate that passion to other fields when they are outside of the narrow time window of their physical peak. At my university former olympic marathoner Bob Kempainen is a pulmonologist and critical care physician conducting research and educating future physicians. Roger Bannister went on to a distinguished career in medicine. Jim Ryun became a congressman (alas, republican...). Peter Snell, the great mid-distance runner from New Zealand, received his PhD and is a leader in the field of exercise physiology. Sebastian Coe went on to be a political leader in England after his glory days as a 1500/800 runner. These are just the people that come to mind from the single sport I follow. So to dismiss the current athletes with the comment " I doubt very much that they will be leaders in areas such as science, research, medicine or banking" is not only a bit insulting, it ignores history. While we can certainly agree that society places too much emphasis on sport, you have to recognize that the drive that gets someone to the olympics (talent alone won't cut it in a world of 6 bilion) does translate to other fields.

Thanks Dimitri,

I knew someone would be paying attention. There are many many more outstanding people out there as well. In particular, Nawal el Moutawakel, winner of the inaugural 400m hurdles in LA84 and my friend and who was just elected to the Executive board of the IOC, as well as being the Moroccan Minister of Sport and Culture; Guy Drut was French Minister of Sport; Pietro Mennea, member of the European Parliament. Enough yet Heinrick or should some-one really look at the science field and report back to you?

Edwin,

I have had the privilge of personally attending two opening cermonies in LA and in Atlanta. You are absolutely right ,there is no other event in the world like this. I also had the honor of accompaniing your mother to your semi-final race in LA in 84. Needles to say you won that one as well. You Mom was so happy and proud. You are are the best I have ever seen. I will always cherish the memory of the brief time I spent with your charming Mom.

Jim K (AT&T)

Every time I watch this new crop of youngsters in the track and field events (my favorite events) I miss Edwin Moses. The Summer Olympics just hasn't been the same! But, I root them on all the same and hope they win cleanly. It will be good to read your unique perspective, Mr. Moses!


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