Why the “Olympic Spirit” Thing is a Hoax

Dedicated to being the best at what they do

I just read a glowing tribute to the “Olympic spirit” displayed by all the happy young Olympic athletes. The focus of the tribute was on how we can apply some of the dedication shown by Olympians to our personal, business and professional lives.

Now I don’t want to come down on anybody, but I think a little bit of reality about this Olympic dedication thing would be a good thing. Surely the big question one must ask about dedicating yourself lock stock and barrel to snowboarding or skiing or (horrors!) mastering the luge is “Why am I doing this?”

Glorifying the Winners

Just saying “Because I want to be the best at what I do” is not a very good answer.

First, the odds of actually being the best – or even in the top ten or twenty – is a long shot at best. So isn’t this a rather bad investment of your time, energy and (probably someone else’s) money if the likelihood of your success is so low?

Yes, sure we glorify the winners once every four years. We see winners parading to the podium one after the other. But isn’t that rather an unrealistic picture given that there are probably at least 10 losers for every winner?

That isn’t even to mention the thousands who never make it to the games. What about them? What about the guy who continually comes up 16th or 17th in the short program or the half pipe? Is he or she “living the dream”? Or are they just the fodder that keeps the machine humming along?

Being the Best We Can Be

Second, what’s so great about “being the best” anyway. Is it an ego trip these people are on? Are we encouraging them to be and feel superior to everyone else? Is it the monetary payoff that justifies it? Or is it just the “Olympic spirit” (whatever that is) or “being the very best you can be” that makes us all value this process so much?

If “being the very best I can be” is such a cherished goal, why are not the rest of us doing it? If we say we value this sort of thing but don’t live it in our own lives, doesn’t that make us hypocrites?

Probably, but there is a much more practical answer to why most of don’t care about “being the very best I can be”. It is impractical, hard work, and ultimately rather pointless. There is simply no payoff. Most of us are happy to make our moderate living, live our unspectacular lives, and play a round of golf with our buddies on the weekend.

I’ve been involved in competitive sports pretty much all my life, and I know how addictive the idea of “winning” can be. But when all is said and done, in any competition there is one winner and a whole bunch of losers.

Is Tiger Happy?

If you go into a golf tournament, for example, to win, chances are you are going to be disappointed. Only Tiger Woods can consistently beat the odds and that doesn’t seem to have made him a very happy person.

I am not just talking about being realistic about your chances of winning. I am talking about being realistic about how much of your “spirit” you should invest in trying to win.

The Olympic Spirit

This is really what the classic Olympic spirit is about – and sportsmanship in general. Playing the game because you enjoy it, and keeping it in perspective with the rest of your life.

Today’s Olympians who are paid to devote their entire existence to training and striving to win are not exemplifying this spirit at all.

When you get right down to it most of them are naive young people being used for the benefit of commercial and political interests. They are being pushed and cajoled by parents and coaches into performing to feed their egos and the public’s gluttonous (and often profitable) appetite for entertainment.

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