An Olympic Spirit? Not So Much (A Mustard Seed Musing)

The original Olympic Games were initially part of a festival that celebrated the mighty godhead of Zeus, with protection provided for all of the athletes (theoretically, by Zeus himself). Much has changed since the games originated in Greece, even since Pierre Coubertin “reinvented” the games with Citius, Altius, Fortius as a motto and the credo that “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” But has so much changed that the meaning of the Games have been lost?

A quick spin through #Sochiproblems on Twitter recounts plenty of problems with this year’s Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Hotels with no floors or nobs on doors because of rushed construction, conjunctivitis for national treasure (?) Bob Costas from a hotel pillowcase, and protests over Russian laws against homosexuality are problematic black eyes (sorry, Bob) on the quadrennial event.

Alexander Putin’s Olympic Games will have cost nearly ten times as much to pull off as the Vancouver Games did, not least because the beach town of Sochi isn’t a natural snow element in February. But if the incompletely lit Olympic rings at the opening ceremony are an ironic indication, Russia has failed to ‘fake it’ as well as China did at the Beijing Olympics. This communism thing isn’t about everyone having something equally, but about some getting really, really, really rich.

If Russia spent nearly $70 billion on the Olympic Games, but not on door knobs, hygiene, and goodwill, where did it go? If the Olympics are about the best that we can be, celebrating our strength and spirit as creations of the divine, then what does it say when corruption reigns supreme? Can the world really turn a blind eye to laws that prejudice, money that is misspent on a national level, and a coverup that isn’t even cosmetically deep?

It appears we may well be able to do that, because frankly, it seems that we let our sense of sports, and national pride, and economics blind us to the dirty underbelly of our own communities. That’s a far cry from “thy kingdom come,” and demands we do more than just pray it: we may actually need to mean it if we expect anything to change.


About Jacob Sahms

I'm searching for hope in the midst of the storms, raising a family, pastoring a church, writing on faith and film, rooting for the Red Sox, and sleeping occasionally. Find me at,, and the brand new
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