“Olympism and OKC”
There is no greater time to find hope for humankind than every two years during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. While I like to see my kids out being active versus laying on the couch and watching television, I believe there are powerful lessons to be learned on many levels by soaking in every moment possible during the fleeting two weeks of the Olympics followed by another inspiration two weeks of the Paralympics. Any while I love to see my sons race to the pool after watching Michael Phelps win his 21st gold medal, I also love for them to see intensity of focus required to reach the podium along with sportsmanship continually on display as cultures converge in friendly athletic competition. So much can be learned from the spirit of “Olympism” and the magic of the Olympic and Paralympic Games makes the world feel a little more unified during the month of August.
The fundamental principles of Olympism are outlined in the Olympic Charter. Olympism seeks to create a way of life by blending sport with culture, education and international co-operation. It is based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles. The main goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.
Many people ask me about the road Oklahoma City took to becoming one of a small group of US Olympic and Paralympic Training Sites in this country. Many are even more surprised to learn the reason the world’s strongest brand is officially connected to Oklahoma City through our river. While Olympic Training many not seem that to be infused in our culture, it is easy to see how Olympism is synonymous to the “Oklahoma Standard.” From the way Oklahomans naturally help others in need at a moment’s notice to the integrity on display on the courts, fields, and waters among all levels of athletes of our state, it is easy to seem how OKC truly epitomizes the true spirit of the Olympic Movement. There is no greater example of Olympism in action on the court and in the community than our own Oklahoma City Thunder.
The ditch that divided OKC for decades had made Olympic dreams come true. Several rowing and paddling athletes are in Rio as a result of OKC’s own brand of Olympism. World class facilities and ground-breaking venues have risen along the Oklahoma River in over the span of just one decade. Similar developments would likely take a generation elsewhere. Downtown districts continue to grow and flourish while OKC enjoys the fruits of the nationally-heralded MAPS programs. MAPS also represents principles of Olympism in its purest form, not just because MAPS helped develop one of the finest Olympic training sites in the world in the Boathouse District, but because of the way we got it done.
There is a reason our city is now one of the nation’s premier examples for place that knows how to complete powerful quality of life-oriented initiatives despite economic uncertainties and challenges. There is a reason our river is now known to be one of the most dynamic urban river amenities in the nation. The reason is directly associated with our people and a culture we did not give ourselves credit for having. It is easy to see how OKC embodies the spirit of Olympism which is embedded in our culture. Through this perspective, it may now not seem quite as far-fetched as it once to recognize that we are attracting and cultivating medal contending athletes who share the field of play with the best athletes in the world. It also helps to illustrate how the Boathouse District took hold and citizens agreed to tax themselves to produce a game-changing $45 million whitewater course.
While Rio may seem far away, the spirit of the Olympic Games is actually close to home. The fact that Oklahoma City is actually a sister city to Rio make come to a surprise to many. While our banks of the Oklahoma River may not be the same as the famed Copacabana Beach, we share a special bond in Olympism – which ultimately led Rio to become the first South American country to host the world’s greatest sporting event. As the Olympics and Paralympics draw to a close, one hopes to see the Olympic spirit continue to resonate in the world. We know it will in OKC.