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Embracing the magic of the Olympic Games

✦ "Faster, Higher, Stronger - Together"


This month sees the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad take place. Otherwise known as the 2024 Summer Olympics, and officially branded as Paris 2024, the international, multi-sport event will run from July 26 to August 11, primarily in the French capital city but also at selected venues throughout the country.


The occasion is extra special as it was exactly 100 years ago that Paris last hosted the Games and this year the City of Light will join London to become only the second city to ever host the Games three times (Los Angeles will join this elite group when it hosts the 2028 Games).

Olympics 2024 - Eiffel Tower. Photo: Joseph Hansen, Olympic Games volunteer | Brilliant Online Australia Singapore UK | Brilliant Online
Olympics 2024 - Eiffel Tower. Photo: Joseph Hansen, Olympic Games volunteer

As far as global sporting events go, you cannot really get much bigger than the Olympics. Sure, the football World Cup arguably supersedes it in popularity, reach, and engagement, but the sheer history, legacy, and core values of what the Games represents are hard to top. It is an occasion that exceeds the boundaries of merely a sporting event, that harnesses and promotes the three core values of Olympism: excellence, respect, and friendship. These values are considered fundamental to building a better and more harmonious world, where rivalries can be set aside and the focus is on unification rather than division.


As the International Olympic Committee explains, these core values have evolved and are now expressed in more contemporary terms as:

🏅 Striving for excellence and encouraging people to be the best they can be.

🏅 Demonstrating respect in many different manners: respect towards yourself, the rules, your opponents, the environment, the public, etc.

🏅 Celebrating friendship, which is quite unique to the Olympic Games – an event that brings people together every few years.


Hospitable

All of this resonates very strongly and clearly with Port Macquarie resident and Olympic Ambassador Barbara Smith. Barbara has a very special relationship with the Games in that Paris 2024 marks 40 years that she has been involved with the auspicious occasion, either as an attendee or volunteer.

“I’ve been involved since the Los Angeles Games in 1984, while my husband Laurie has likewise since 1968 in Mexico,” Barbara tells us. “The Olympic movement has provided Laurie and myself the most wonderful opportunities to meet and associate with athletes, officials and outstanding individuals.
Barbara and Laurie proudly sharing their Olympic Games memories | Brilliant Online Australia Singapore UK | Brilliant Online
Barbara and Laurie proudly sharing their Olympic Games memories

“When Sydney was awarded the 2000 Olympics and Paralympics on that momentous morning in 1993, we just knew we had to be involved in some capacity,” Barbara explains. “So we signed up to the Pioneer Volunteer Program, an initiative that began as soon as the 1996 Games in Atlanta had finished. We were initially a group of 500 which has since grown into 50,000. We have met so many great friends and regular meetings and catch-ups are still held. We are so grateful for this opportunity.”


Renowned for the hospitable nature of its people, it is unsurprising that the Sydney Games just after the turn of the century highlighted so much of what is great about the land Down Under and left such a strong impression with not only those involved at close quarters but with those watching from afar on TV. It elevated the occasion to an altogether new level and very much set the benchmark for future Games in the process. Laurie even wrote a book on his endeavours, ‘Living is Giving - The Volunteer Experience’. “It was a fantastic occasion and being a volunteer made it all the more enjoyable and memorable,” Barbara recalls. “We volunteered in the village and were embedded in supporting the Brazilian and Kenyan teams. We have served Australia, Sweden, Turkey, and Ethiopia in the same capacity at different Games. All very different countries, with differing cultures and styles of organisation but so rewarding to be exposed to and a part of.”


‘Peace, love and friendship’

London 2012 was especially memorable as the then Mayor of London Boris Johnson urged all volunteers to recall and replicate the benchmark set 12 years previous in Sydney. “You’re ambassadors,” he told the 8,000 plus team of volunteers at the time. “You have to greet everyone who comes to London. What we need to do is overcome our natural British reserve and be a little bit more like the Australians.” Not something Barbara and Laurie had any difficulty embracing, of course, and which they did with great aplomb!

2012 London Olympics. Barbara and Laurie with reporter Sarah Harris. | Brilliant Online Australia Singapore UK | Brilliant Online
2012 London Olympics. Barbara and Laurie with reporter Sarah Harris.

Tokyo 2020 was a different proposition as the global COVID-19 pandemic not only postponed the landmark event by a full 12 months, but also curtailed the participation of many, including volunteers such as Barbara and Laurie. However, that is what makes this year’s Games even more appealing, the return to something so familiar and pleasure-inducing, like a warm blanket, a log fire, and a hot cuppa after a day out in the cold!


There is no doubt the Olympics is extra special, and not only as a sporting extravaganza. It IS a time when people from all over the world can unite and embrace positive values that promise much for a brighter future. In a contemporary world that often seems to be spiralling out of control, it might not be remiss to say the Paris Olympics may have come at just the right time, something Barbara agrees with.


“When the world comes together every four years in peace, love and friendship then we all benefit,” she says with a reassuring smile.


 

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