For the first time ever, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recognized those athletes that have no home country due to war.
It is probably clear that carrying the label of athlete in and of itself represents excellence in one of its purest forms. But when we think about the Olympics, that level of excellence takes the definition to the utmost echelon.
According to the principles of the Olympic Games, the goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity. It’s a mouthful, but it’s powerful and to me, this team is a perfect embodiment of this principle.
There were 46 candidates that petitioned the IOC for this opportunity and of those 46, there were 10 world class athletes chosen to compete under the neutral banner of the Olympic flag. Like others competing in Rio, these are strong, high achieving individuals who won’t let anything stop them – not violence, oppression, not lack of means, not even war. They compete on behalf of over 65 million people who are hardly ever afforded the dignity or the respect they deserve.
The ten athletes represent Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the face of overcoming unimaginable hardships on their journey to Rio, all of these athletes share a fervent desire that their refugee status NOT define them.
While their journey and stories highlight the horrific situations that many are facing, this also brings up the dark and light side of each of us as humans. We are so quick to label someone and in the process of doing so, we psychologically distance ourselves from the human element. I say this so often – words matter. And when it comes to excellence – being outstanding or extremely good – we all need to make the effort to see the human in every situation. They have a name – not a label or a skin color or a disease. This applies not only to this team and this moment in time.
Every human being has the right to have a place to call home. These athletes and their homeland situation are evidence that regardless of their circumstances, they need to carry on. That NEED comes from deep within them. Their homeland situation is just one piece of their story. Sure the media loves to take this and elevate them to heroic levels – its great material, why not.
But the spirit of the athlete, regardless of team or country, is excellence in action. Their message of hope – a light that is within all of us – our ExcellenceDNA, it leads us to see them with our hearts and not our heads.
Yolande Mabika from the Democratic Republic of the Congo articulates it perfectly, when she speaks to the 65+ refugees across the globe that see this team as a representation of them, her message – “Do not give up on hope, keep believing and have faith in your hearts.”
Those are powerful words that carry no labels that cross all cultures, all beliefs and speak to the core in all of us that is good. Our excellence as human beings hinges on our ability to see others as human regardless of circumstance. Yes, I understand this applies to both good and bad people. But by doing anything less than seeing even dare I say a terrorist as human, then I have not fulfilled what I see as my souls duty to learn how to love others as I love myself.
I am grateful that the International Olympic Committee took a stand on a global crisis and wrapped their arms around these people, giving them a sense of dignity and respect that labels tear down and take away.
I need people like these amazing athletes to admire and be inspired by, so that my bar of excellence continues to grow and move higher. My hope is that during these Olympic Games that you see each of these amazing athletes for the humans that they are, ones that against many odds, insane levels of discipline and tenacity, have come to the arena that only allows pure excellence and the heart of a champion to enter within its walls. We love them and these games because they truly are a reflection of our own souls desire to be our best selves.
Thank you for joining me today and until next time – LIVE Excellence!
Here are the 10 athletes that represent the Olympic Team at the Olympic Games Rio 2016:
- Rami Anis, from Syria; sport – swimming
- Yiech Pur Biel, from South Sudan; sport – athletics, 800m
- James Nyang Chiengjiek, from South Sudan; sport – athletics, 400m
- Yonas Kinde, from Ethiopia; sport – athletics, marathon
- Angelina Nada Lohalith, from South Sudan; sport – athletics, 1500m
- Rose Nathike Lokonyen, from South Sudan; sport – athletics, 800m
- Paulo Amotun Lokoro, from South Sudan; sport – athletics, 1500m
- Yolande Bukasa Mabika, from Democratic Republic of the Congo; sport – judo, -70kg
- Yusra Mardini, from Syria; sport – swimming
- Popole Misenga, from Democratic Republic of the Congo; sport – judo, -90kg