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Reflections on the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024 by Dr rer. publ. Werner Wüthrich

ActivismReflections on the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024 by Dr rer. publ. Werner Wüthrich

According to the official calendar, the Olympic Games took place for the first time in 776 BC in the Greek city of Olym- pia in the north-west of the Peloponnese – 3,000 years ago. The simple rural festi- val in Greek Olympia, which the inhabit- ants celebrated in honour of Zeus, became a competition in song, dance, poetry and many sporting disciplines. The period be- tween two festivals (four years) was called an Olympiad. These games brought to- gether the best artists and athletes from all over the Greek peninsula and the islands. The Olympic Games have a long tradition – even after the fall of Ancient Greece. The basic idea has survived. Since ancient times, the Olympic flame has remained a symbol of peace and friendship between peoples.

The Olympic flame is lit by the rays of the sun in a parabolic mirror and burns during the games at a sacred place in Olympia calledPrytaneum. Today, the fire is carried from its place of origin to Paris in a torch relay. It is a highly symbolic event. The torchbearers proclaim theEke- cheiria, the Olympic Truce, and the mes- sage of peace on their way.

On 16 April 2024, the Olympic flame will be lit in Olympia – just like 3000 years ago. Torchbearers will carry the flame in eleven stages to Piraeus, the harbour city of Athens. Here, the his- toric three-master, the Bélem, takes over the flame and brings it to Marseille. This


ship was already in service in 1896, when Paris hosted the first Olympic Games of the modern era. After about ten days at sea, the Bélem will arrive in Marseille. Its arrival will open the festivities and the Games in France. However, the torch relay with the fire continues – right across France. The country will be at its best for many days. President Macron will offi- cially open the Games in Paris on 16 July. They will last until 11 August. It should be a great celebration.

Shady sides

“Games wide open” is the official motto of the Olympic Committee. The organis- ers will offer a marathon and other disci- plines for the generalpopulation. Howev- er, countries such as Russia and Belarus are excluded. This contradicts the spir- it of the Olympic Games, which aims to promote friendship between peoples. Wars were not so rare in ancient Greece either – between Sparta and Athens and also between the other Greek city states. The Olympic Games have always been a bridge and an opportunity to overcome hostile differences and strengthen sol- idarity. The Greeks, who were often at odds with each other, were united at cru- cial moments and won a great victory over the Persians shoulder toshoulder in Mara- thon in 490 BC. The reporting messenger brought the news of the victory to Athens in such a short time that he collapsed dead


at the finish after 41 kilometres. Today, the marathon is part of the programme – as it is again in Paris.

Is there a better prerequisite for the “open mind” that characterised the ancient Greeks? Despite armed conflicts, people met every four years, socialised, cele- brated festivals, practised singing, danc- ing and poetry and competed in numerous sporting disciplines. – Perhaps this is why Ancient Greece has such a unique place in the history of mankind that some of its life serves as a role model again today.

The athletes from Russia and Belarus are only allowed to take part in the com- petitions as “individual, neutral persons” and are excluded from the opening cere- mony. This also violates the Olympic spir- it. And what about the population in the Gaza Strip, who are holding out in their ruins and don’t know whether and how they will survive the next few days?

President Emanuel Macron has not ex- actly shown himself to be peace-loving in recent days and weeks. He wants to send troops to Ukraine and supply more weapons. He is attracting attention with his distinctly bellicose rhetoric, while the French are preparing a “grand” celebra- tion throughout France.

The torchbearers of Olympia proclaim on their way the “holy truce” and the mes- sage of peace – as they have done for three thousand years. This must be taken seri- ously!

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