Olympics - What’s the Message?olympics

At last, the Olympics are here and the greatest show on earth is underway. It seems so long since London was awarded the 2012 Games, followed by the building of new stadia and infrastructure and finally a 70 day torch run. As we have gone along with this journey and arrived at the grand opening, what has been the main message?

Initially, the main message was of legacy and inclusion from Lord Coe – of thousands of youngsters benefiting from world-class role models and sporting facilities. Yet as costs spiralled, a new message emerged of value for money, and as demand for tickets outstripped supply, the message of inclusion was lost. During the torch run, messages of invitation, friendship and welcome were extended, not only to the UK, but to the world. In this last week, despite some set-backs around security and transport, the focus seems to have shifted back to the athletes and their stories.

I have loved the recent television documentaries on Olympians both past and present. Inspirational stories of overcoming the odds, of team work, persistence and hard work to achieve dreams, made compelling viewing for a sports nut like myself. Not all the tales were positive – stories of drug taking, painful insecurities, oppressive parents and greed emerged – so the messages were mixed as you looked beyond the invitation of welcome to this sporting celebration. But still the torch run message shows there is an invitation of friendly welcome to come to the party, regardless of the flaws of the people involved.  

During the Games, thousands of UK churches are offering a similar invitational message of friendly welcome through community festivals, sports activities and big screen parties. Similar to the Olympics, it is a message of invitation for flawed individuals, but with the offer of a real solution as well. It is a message that has been passed on from one torchbearer to another for 2,000 years as the early church leader, the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15 in the Bible:

“What I received I passed on to you and it is the most important of all. Here is what it is. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said he would. He was buried and raised from the dead on the third day, just as Scripture said he would be. He appeared to ...” (a list of credible eyewitnesses is presented).

Paul lists three facts – the death of Jesus, his three-day burial and his coming back to life – plus evidence to support these facts, such as biblical predictions, Christ’s post-resurrection appearances to hundreds of people and the resulting changed lives. The why of Christ’s death, burial and raising back to life is spelt out also because it is for our sins i.e. our flaws, the falling short of God’s standards (and our own) and our own selfish hurtful independent ways that Christ intervened.

While sport may offer a significant – but temporary – change for some, it cannot address basic inner human flaws. Therefore, the Christian invitation message of being made whole is crucial, as it addresses the basic human need to be rescued from ourselves.

Yes, I am taking up the Games invitation this summer to join in this great sporting spectacle. There is, however, a greater invitation on offer from many local churches around the UK that will be worth checking out as well.   

David Oakley, Ambassadors in Sport.