[DFT] Fw: [ChivalryToday] Olympic Chivalry
seanan at elfsea.net
Sun Aug 15 19:51:46 PDT 2004
By Scott Farrell
©2004, Shining Armor Enterprises
On August 13th the world will be treated to one of the most exciting
and celebrated sporting enterprises in history - the Olympic games.
Before the Olympic hype reaches a fever pitch, let's take a moment to
examine how the Olympics affect and reflect our sense of chivalry in
The first Olympic games were held in Greece in the 8th century B.C.
They were a means of bringing together a fractious country in the
spirit of peaceful competition. Although we recite that phrase with
familiar ease today, the concept of "peaceful competition" was
revolutionary in the ancient world. In the Olympics, the tools of war
became symbols of nobility, camaraderie and unity. In that sense, we
might consider the Olympics one of the birthplaces of the knightly
Another well-known fact about the ancient Olympics was that the
athletes competed au natural - that is, in the nude. This wasn't done
simply as a promotional gimmick. In the society that created the
concept of democratic government, such openness was a means of
symbolizing that athletes, like all Greek citizens, stood as equals
before their peers and before the gods. With everything "out in the
open," no athlete could seek an unfair advantage, such as carrying a
concealed weapon onto the playing field.
Fair competition became inculcated in Western society in part because
of this sense of the "level playing field" of the Olympics. Even
centuries later, knights competing in tournaments in the Middle Ages
considered it a mark of honor to carry lances of exactly equal lengths
so that skill, rather than superior equipment, would determine the
winner of the joust.
Today, of course, the question of "fair competition" goes much farther
than checking togas and measuring spears. From undetectable hormones to
corked bats, modern athletes can be tempted by a variety of means of
gaining the "competitive edge" - and, unfortunately, in today's world,
audiences expect, and too often even tacitly approve of such behavior.
The Olympics is one of the few venues where we even still give passing
support to the chivalric ideal of "noble competition."
The Olympics are a reminder that sports are about more than trophies,
medals and shoe endorsement deals. Athletes symbolize what's best in
all of us: the pursuit of excellence, the ability to overcome adversity
and the willingness to compete with grace and dignity. That's why the
Greeks chose the word "agon" to describe Olympic competition - they
recognized that being a respected, noble athlete was, in a word, agony.
It meant pushing yourself to the limit physically, mentally and
spiritually. It meant risking defeat and injury, but it also meant
overcoming temptation and personal desire in order to seek a victory
that would inspire those looking on from the sidelines. It was an
acknowledgement of the fact that great athletes represent all that is
best in human endeavor; they are the champions we strive to become in
our own competitions and struggles.
Yes, the Olympics have been rocked by scandals in the past, and will
surely be tarnished by scandals again in the future - and in that
regard, too, little has changed since the 6th century B.C., when
unscrupulous athletes tried to invoke the gods and put curses on their
rivals despite sanctions against such acts. But like democracy and like
chivalry, the Olympic spirit endures and prospers, even in the face of
petty, unsavory behavior.
As we prepare to cheer for the athletes of this year's games, we should
remember that the Code of Chivalry lives on in the valiant, noble
contestants who stand as knights in shining armor beneath the Olympic
torch of the 2004 games.
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Learn more about the history of the Olympic games at the official
website of the 2004 Olympics:
Discover a wonderful display of arts and artifacts from the ancient
Olympic games at the website of the Greek Cultural Heritage Center:
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Looking for a unique gift or a treat for yourself? Order "Chivalry
Today" T-shirts, cups and bags at:
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Readers are permitted and encouraged to share this article with others
as a way of furthering the understanding of the Code of Chivalry in the
modern world. Scott Farrell's seminars on chivalry and the knightly
virtues are available to businesses, schools and civic organizations
throughout the Southern California area; more information can be found
on our website. Please include all copyright statements and
attributions when forwarding Chivalry Today articles. Copyright 2004
Scott Farrell and Shining Armor Enterprises. Visit our website at
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