News

National Pride Is Strong Motivating Force for Olympic Athletes

Multimedia

For 21 days in August, more than 10,000 athletes from around the world will compete in the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.  While they come in pursuit of personal dreams, they will also represent their respective countries. For spectators and supporters from the more than 200 countries participating, the Olympics are a chance to cheer for their countrymen and women.  For the athletes themselves, national pride is a powerful motivator. VOA's Brian Padden has the story, with additional reporting by Nico Colombant and Kari Barber in Dakar, Michael O’Sullivan in Los Angeles,  and Jim Teeple in the Palestinian Territory. (Part 5 of 5) 

Aminata Diouf will soon abandon her beauty salon business to represent Senegal in track and field at the Beijing Olympics.  This will be her third trip to the Olympics. She says the experience is always emotional.   "I feel like an ambassador, who is very proud.  It is this motivation that makes you want to train at two hundred percent of your abilities. The goal is to satisfy an entire nation," she says.

While the Olympic charter stresses peaceful competition, it is also a time of surging national pride. Olympic historian David Wallechinsky says for years the International Olympic Committee tried to limit the focus on nationalism by refusing to release national medal totals. 

"I mean, in the main press center, everybody is creating their own national medal total.  So finally they said, 'OK we are going to put a billboard up to show you the national medal total, but we are not going to talk about it.  You can do whatever you want.'  And then finally it's even on the website of the International Olympic Committee," said Wallechinsky.

Patriotism can give athletes a sense of purpose beyond personal achievement. 

Palestinian sprinter Ghadeer Ghroof, 17,  says she hopes that by competing in the Olympics she can bring international attention to the plight of her people. "I am going to represent Palestine, a country that is considered by many to be an irrelevant place.  It is not irrelevant.  It has people like us - educated people. It has concerned and educated people, and I am going to prove that to them at the Olympic games," she said.

Pride in an Olympic athletes can unite, if only for a short time, an entire nation.

In the 2004 Athens Olympics, the Iraqi soccer team's unexpected success, making it all the way to the semi-finals, became a symbol of unity and hope to a nation in the clutch of daily violence. Former Parlympian John Register works with the U.S. Olympic Committee's program for physically handicapped athletes. He says the Olympics can also be a place of reconciliation for enemies.  

"The greatest vision I could have, would be somebody that is injured and becomes a Paralympics athlete from the United States and somebody who is injured and becomes a Paralympics athlete from Iraq or Afghanistan sitting down at a future Olympic games sharing their stories," said Register.

Most Olympic athletes understand that how they conduct themselves at the games will reflect upon their countries. "You have to stand a little bit taller and definitely remember that there's all those other people behind you too," says modern pentathlon athlete Mickey Kelly, who  is also a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army.  "So it's a great way to show your respect back to your country and for me back to the military."

With the eyes of their nations upon them, these athletes say the best they can do is do their best.

 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs