Well, the 2016 Olympic Games are right around the corner and the opening ceremonies are tomorrow evening. There was a special on NBC earlier tonight highlighting facets of the games and the athletes that was designed to bring us up to speed. While it is certainly interesting to re-live past moments during medal ceremonies and to watch the progress of our Olympians throughout the years, the main story doesn’t seem to be the athletic competition. The human interest feature stories on Phelps and Bolt are great but I’m much more concerned about the Zika virus and the complications that the athletes will have to deal with after their exposure to this very real and dangerous problem in Rio.
There have been athletes who have declined to participate in the Games due to the potential of getting infected and many athletes on the Russian teams have been prevented from competing based on allegations of doping – supposedly throughout the State run program. But the thing that impacted me the most was the discussion on the deplorable sanitary conditions in the country. The swimmers have been warned to keep their mouths closed during their competitions as they will be competing in water filled with excrement and who knows what else.
Swallowing water could have very severe health consequences but the problem seemed to be brushed off as the commentators have noted that most of the world doesn’t have safe water supplies. Others pointed out that Rio is less prepared than an former Olympic city – ever… Signage is horrible and the venues are very far apart, making travel next to impossible. On top of all that, there are serious concerns about safety and how the police and security forces in Rio will be able to protect the teams from around the world. I don’t mean to sound like a downer, but I really have no desire to go there and participate in any of the sightseeing or patronize the Games.
Many folks are asking questions about whether the Olympic venue is the correct place to be based on the problems that I have touched on this evening. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But it was mentioned that in the overall spirit of the Olympics, they have never been held in South America before, so there was little chance that another city would have been picked to host the Games.
The whole warm-up to the Olympics has given me an additional perspective on how insulated we are here in America. People live in difficult conditions throughout the world and we take for granted so much of what we have. No question – we have been spoiled. But the dreams of the athletes, from wherever they hail, is to bring home the gold. And this isn’t too different from the way the Olympics have been since the first Games in Athens so many years ago.
The idea of running the race and doing a good job, or being presented with a crown, are aren’t new concepts. In fact, the apostle Paul had quite a bit to say about finishing well. Our verse for this evening highlights one of those verses. Paul tells us, in Phil. 3:14, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
My encouragement this evening is that Jesus wants each of us to press on toward the goal of declaring Him as Lord and Savior of our life and to grow in becoming more like Christ. My prayer is that you will continue to run the good race of deepening your relationship with Jesus and His Father; and to join me in praying for a safe Olympics in Rio. After all, with the world in such disarray, the people of Rio and their guests have every right to be safe and to have the world shine a light on the efforts of all the athletes for the next several weeks. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…