There can be no greater honour than representing your country at the Olympics and bringing home a medal; to know that you are recognised across the world as one of the best in your chosen sport, must elicit a special kind of euphoria – just ask Chad Le Clos and his super-proud dad, Bert. At the 2012 Olympics, South Africa brought home a total of six Olympic medals – three gold, two silver and one bronze – so this will be the magic number to at least match or hopefully beat. With a rich history, purportedly beginning in Ancient Greece as early as 776 BC – inscriptions found at Olympia list the various events which included a pentathlon, boxing, wrestling and equestrian events – the Olympics today are considered the world’s greatest sports competition with more than 200 countries competing.
From Ancient Greece to Modern Greece in the late 1800s, it is the Greek philanthropist, Evangelos Zappas, who is considered to be the founding father of the modern day Olympic Games – he sponsored the Games in 1859, 1870, 1875 and 1888, all before the inception of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). His ideas, along with knowledge gathered from a similar event run at Much Wenlock, England, inspired Frenchman, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, to create the IOC in 1890 – under its auspices, the first Summer Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896, with 241 athletes from 14 countries competing in 43 events. It is also Coubertin we have to thank for the Olympic rings – he designed the symbol in 1912 and the interlocking five rings, each a different colour, were originally chosen to represent a colour from the flag of each participating country. Today the rings, according to the Olympic Charter, ‘express the activity of the Olympic Movement and represent the union of the five continents and the meeting of athletes from throughout the world at the Olympic Games’.
According to an article posted on the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) website, online betting firms predict we will see our most successful year yet since returning to the Games in 1992. Their predictions are that we will achieve eight medals – two gold, three silver and three bronze – with a possible ninth medal if Caster Semenya decides to participate in the 400m as well as the 800m race.
Whatever our final tally may be, important is that we remember the words expressed by Baron Pierre de Coubertin in the Olympic Creed: ‘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.
So fight the good fight Team South Africa and make us all proud!