Well, it’s finally over. The 2012 Olympics in London finished last night, with one of the most memorable closing ceremonies I’ve ever seen. As I sat and watched that ceremony, I couldn’t help but be struck by the power and beauty of the Olympic games. For one small moment in time a collection of athletes from around the world come together to represent the best in what their country has to offer. They do it for the pride. The pride that comes in working hard to achieve something. The pride that comes in succeeding where others can’t. And the pride that comes from overcoming obstacles, setbacks, and hardships to accomplish something great.
If you were like me, you spent several nights these past few weeks watching the games. It didn’t matter that the airing was time delayed, that the events had already been decided. It was just as dramatic to watch as if it was live. I found myself watching late into the night – Swimming, Gymnastics, Volleyball, Rowing, Diving – none of these sports I have ever participated in, but all of them captivating my attention.
This year’s Olympics were fantastic. The British should feel extremely proud today. They and their countrymen put on a show to be topped. The events seemed to go off without a hitch. The venues were amazing. The atmosphere seemed to be almost electric. And in their own way they added a little of that famous British “humor”, having your Queen seemingly jump out of a helicopter at the opening events. Start to finish, a tremendous event.
By now you are wondering what the Olympics have to do with leadership, and why would I choose this topic for my Leadership Thought? Well, it’s the lessons it teaches us about honor and pride; hard work and diligence; teamwork and responsibility; overcoming obstacles; giving it all; and putting aside differences if for only one moment to achieve something greater than yourself. I’ve always used quotes to drive home my message – so I’ll leave you with some of the more memorable ones from this year’s Olympic events:
“I knew if I finished strong we could still get it [the baton] around,” Mitchell said. “I saw Josh Mance motioning me in for me to hand it off to him, which lifted me. I didn’t want to let those three guys down, or the team down, so I just ran on it. It hurt so bad” [Manteo Mitchell, US sprinter who broke his leg half way through his leg of the 4×400 relay heat, yet finished the run so his team would qualify]
“About a year ago I was not sure I would be alive. It’s winning just being here, speaking to you guys.” [Petr Koukal, Czech badminton player, who only two years ago was diagnosed with testicular cancer]
“There was no pressure. You should play in my country, then you will see pressure. They throw bricks at you” [Ivano Balic, Croatian handball player, after losing his match to France]
“My mother used to tell us in the mornings, ‘Carl put on your shoes, Oscar you put on your prosthetic legs… So I grew up not really thinking I had a disability. I grew up thinking I had different shoes.” [Oscar Pistorius, South African double amputee runner, nicknamed ‘Blade Runner’ because he races on carbon fibre prosthetic blades]
“It’s hard to put it into words in English, it’s even harder in Swedish!” [Pia Sundhage, US women’s soccer coach, originally from Sweden, commenting on the joy of winning the gold metal]
“Our opponents were better than us and we must congratulate them and prepare for our next race. In the pub.” [Filip Dvorak, Czech canoest]
I think that sums it up really well. Don’t you?