Friday, August 20, 2004

Olympic ideal

Apparently the Olympic committee do raise funds to help promote sport in developing countries. This is great news!In addition, the stated and published Olympic ideals are also great: They concern human rights of everyone to play sports, a sense of fair play, encouraging youth, the harmonious of man and peace. The Olympic Truce is an expression of the yearning of mankind for peace, understanding, and reconciliation and for the noble notion of distinction, based on honest competition. In the search for excellence every athlete is equal; and victory is the result of ability, training, hard work and perseverance. Discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, sex or otherwise is incompatible with the Olympic spirit.
Let’s just recap! Ever since I was younger (!) I remember watching the opening ceremony. It was inspiring for me as it showed the dedication that athletes had to endure in the pursuit of excellence in their chosen support.

The sad thing for me was watching it from a different perspective. I applaud the ideals of the games, equality and the ethical competitiveness. I was amazed at the teams present. Consider New Zealand, with a population of 4Million people and apparently 6Million passport holder (!), the size of their team was commendable. Similar examples can be viewed with Holland, Finland, Sweden and Norway. The proportion of population to size of team sent to the games bears no connection or correlation – An exception maybe with China.

The Sudanese, Iraq and Afghanistan teams are presented in ‘04. Great for them and in one sense an achievement considering their recent problems. People need basic amenities to become strong and compete. This includes their stability to support education programmes and consistent nutrition.

Another observation I made this year was the inequality issue of women in certain countries.. Interestingly it was reported that this year there will be a Pakistani woman in the swimming sport category, obviously related to the single body piece swimwear that is now available.

I wondered also about the typical sports that developing country teams are entering. Volleyball, weight training and shooting.

India showed its team, a small number compared to their national population. Its difficult for anyone to consider sports if that nation has a less that 75% poverty threshold.

Another Olympic factor rather than ideal in recent years appears (maybe it’s just the UK) to concern itself with nationalism and commercialim. Its great to support and view the UK doing well but I’d also like the BBC to show developing countries and their associated stars. It’s encouraging for the participating country and the athlete’s self-esteem.In summary, its great to get the games back after their 4 year gap but it is sad to not see greater involvement from the countries that represent themselves with the five interconnecting rings.

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Striking at the heart of hate

There are many stress based situations one can find oneself in. As we grow up we may have to deal with a lot of what I call ‘violent noise’, for example: the possibility of being bullied. Relationships can initially appear to be solid but can also crumble at the introduction of a feather-like subject. Crossing the road can be considered as a moral decision. Stress based situations can be worsened by life-threatening scenarios. I use the word scenario in the context of considering consequences of decisions.

The other day I was on an over-ground train platform. It was approximately 3.19pm and my train was due at 3.27pm. I’d returned to near the top of a set of rather steep stairs. Looking out across the display board, it announced an on time arrival and its many stops on route. I stood and contemplated random thoughts and ideas while I waited.

My peace was soon disturbed by the brashness of a clank. It had a repetitive nature and was getting louder. I soon located the sound and could see that it was coming from the bottom of the stairs. Plodding rather heavily I could see a man with wavy blonde and grey hair. His face was tanned but it had a mean harshness to it, almost as if he had just emerged from a violent struggle or fight. His eyes were piercing as he gazed up at me, situated at the top of his target location. The sound had been caused by the force he used to bash a thick twelve inch stick/branch against the metal staircase railing. Each separate slam was approximately 10inches apart, coincidently matching the pace and depth of each step. He continued to stare in my direction; his eyes appeared not to flicker. Within a few seconds he’d now reached half way up the stairs. His pace was still steady and the furiousness of his slamming motion was undeterred. I tried to read his face with my face showing no emotion or reaction. His face fed back a sense of blankness. He appeared to be lost to the world with only one thought – a strike of hate.

A debate in my mind then raged. Shall I move my hand or left him strike it? Would the strike on my hand cause a shriek of intenseness that would leave me unable to respond? Alternatively, I could move my hand away in an expression and concession of pity. I decided on the latter as ration appeared to be absent on the other party. Even though the platform wasn’t empty I still considered that no one would either be close enough or want to get close to help.

When eventually he came right up next to me on the platform, he slammed the stick very close to where my hand would have been hadn’t I removed it just seconds before. He saw his train the 3.21pm come in. Quickening his pace he climbed aboard as the doors quickly shunted backwards and forwards in a Star Trek-like motion. As the train moved out of the station he remained standing close to the door windows. Then using a two fingered projection proceeded to insult me from within his moving cocoon. My retaliation was a victory sign wishing him peace of mind.

I wanted to share this episode with you because there is something fundamental being demonstrated. It shows that although a decision was made not to provoke or invite his hate and if he had really been motivated, like so many other attackers, he could have inflicted a variety of tactics - The result was that no one was harmed. By chance my assessment or judgement was to ignore his potential violence on this occasion helped.However, what we don’t want is for people to get away with such behaviour. We need to be sure that administration of justice can prevail. I could have moved closer to a guard or reported him. Alternatively I could have ignored him and moved away earlier. Our victory against any possible hate attack can be through education but when that fails we need to be clear about our position in a situation, clearly documenting each event. Unprovoked attacks with no one watching can leave courts to imagine what really happened.Defending your dignity if it is under threat is essential. Projecting peace first may help to diffuse a situation. Unfortunately, self realisation of an attacker is often missing leaving you to make a judgement call on striking back at the particular flavour of hate presented.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Connect to Unify = UN1TY

The word unity has a number of definitions:
The state or quality of being one; singleness.
The state or quality of being in accord; harmony.

The combination or arrangement of parts into a whole; unification.
A combination or union thus formed.

Singleness or constancy of purpose or action; continuity: “In an army you need unity of purpose” (Emmeline Pankhurst – women’s rights freedom fighter).
Its also a term that came to mind when I recently found out about the wonderful activities of the Interfaith organisation. The Inter Faith Network for the UK works to build good relations between the communities of all the major faiths in Britain: Baha'i; Buddhist; Christian; Hindu; Jain; Jewish; Muslim; Sikh; and Zoroastrian.

The Network links over 100 member bodies. These include representative bodies from the major faith communities; national inter faith organisations; local inter faith groups; academic institutions and bodies concerned with multi faith education. Its Trustees include men and women from all the member faiths it links.

Recently, they’ve issued a booklet called CONNECT. Different Faiths Shared Values. It was published in association with Timebank and the National Youth Agency.

Reading through the booklet one gets a sense of hope from all the case studies and direct quotes from those that have been involved with each project. The booklet acts as both a guide for making connections and friendships across the different communities we have representative in the UK and ideas for respecting each other. I was especially impressed by how unity became the outcome of the time people spent together. By appreciating each other’s customs, views and religious beliefs, I’m confident that a deeper sense of understanding and mutual respect can emerge.

One of the myths the guide disputes right at the beginning of the booklet is: Religion divides people. All religions really hate each other! NB We all know it’s the minority extremists that can spoil it for the majority. However, it offers a great suggestion – the fact that if we (from different backgrounds) get together to help each other, contribute to charity and aid the improvement of the environment, we can find a common cause to unify around.

I hope that the world politicians or those that are in positions of influence and power can take onboard some of these ideas – Maybe we have the answers just staring at us, but we’re too busy to notice !

Physical copies of CONNECT can be ordered. You can download a copy from:

The booklet also provides a list of useful links to start your own interfaith projects and learn more about those around you.

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