"Lord, I don't ask that I should win, but please, please don't let me finish behind Akabusi."
God, sport, gold: A Christian view of the Olympics
Bringing glory to God whether you win or lose is part of competing for a Christian athlete
My day job, apart from writing, is as the director of Verité Sport - a Christian ministry to the world of sport. I believe, sport is part of God's creation: it is good and to be enjoyed. The words attributed to the Christian athlete Eric Liddell as he runs in the film Chariots of Fire are: "God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast and when I run, I feel his pleasure". They express a profound truth.
The Olympics are the ultimate for many sportspeople: the opportunity to test their ability on the world stage and to achieve a place forever in the record books. Simon Clegg, Chef de Mission for the British Team in Beijing, describes being an Olympian as, "a club that money can't buy into, a club that many aspire to but only a very few achieve." While that is true, there is a price to pay. Faith doesn't make defeat any easier, but it gives the Christian athlete a different perspective.
Members of the women's quad sculls were crying openly when in the final 500 metres of the women's quadruple sculls the Chinese overtook them, just as gold seemed within their grasp and, for the second time, they were relegated to silver and second place. Winning gold meant so much - and the disappointment was crushing. Yet for the Christian, winning is not the sole point or aim of competing. Debbie Flood, one of the four women's quad sculls explains:"God is interested in every single person and in everything we do. I really believe that God has put me in rowing to be a witness for him".
Likewise, Marilyn Okoro, the great British hope for the 800 metre semi-final, had a disappointing finish, ending the semi-final's first heat in sixth place, with a time of 1:59:53. As the British Olympic Association reported, Okoro was distraught to be disqualified from the final. Earlier in the season, Okoro told me that she tries "to combine my faith and athletics ... I run from God and try to bring glory to him". But faith is no shield against disappointment, and working through disappointment while trying to glorify God is no easy task.
Yet in the midst of the stress in Beijing, many Olympic competitors are valuing the opportunity to have a spiritual experience - whether that involves attending a religious service, sitting quietly in the religious centre that is always part of the Olympic village, being prayed for by someone of their own faith or simply having someone to listen to them. The centre and the chaplaincy are always part of the Olympic scene. However, as I will discuss in my final Olympic report, chaplaincy Chinese style has not, unfortunately, worked as well as it might have.
Stuart Weir, Director of Verité Sport From Times Online August 19, 2008