Elite Sport and Culture Week reinforces Olympic core values

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are still two years away and Ohio is about to experience a small invasion of Olympians who will be in Tiffin to inspire and educate the community on international sport and culture. In a matter of days, over 20 Olympians will arrive for Elite Sport and Culture including medalists Katie Smith and Jon Koncak (basketball); Butch Reynolds and Mary Wineberg (athletics); Noemi Zaharia (swimming); and Anna Goodale (rowing).

Hosted by National Machinery, Mercy Health, Terra State Community College and Tiffin University, Elite Sport and Culture Week features Olympians and coaches representing 12 countries spanning four continents who will speak in over 30 school locations about their personal experience and the core values of the Olympics: Respect, friendship and excellence. All Olympians, coaches and a Paralympian will take the stage at 5:15 p.m. in the Heminger Center next Tuesday for the Festival of Champions.

Corruption and scandal have plagued the every Olympics. There are countless examples of doping violations, judging errors, economic backlashes, boycotts, bribery, ambush marketing and unsolicited political interference.

A positive perspective focuses on how the Olympic core values of respect, friendship and excellence transcend into lifelong behavior rooted in ethical conduct and healthy lifestyles. Consider the following examples of each Olympic Core Value:

RESPECT: Jan Boutmy, an 87-year-old fencer from Curacao who competed in the 1968 Mexico City and 1964 Tokyo Games was once acknowledged by his Polish counterpart for being the “true” victor of a dual that was marred by a severe judging error. Jan’s loss to the eventual Olympic gold medalist due to the error gave him the choice to resent or respect his opponent and the rules of the game. In this case, mutual respect was evident.

Jan has proceeded to demonstrate respect for rules and regulations throughout the rest of his life as a successful international business tycoon and international sport executive. During the Festival of Champions, the fencer will be honored as a recipient of a prestigious International Fair Play award for his career dedicated to sport and integrity.

FRIENDSHIP: The 2018 PyeongChang Games softened the tension between North and South Korea, historically divided over nuclear missile development and humanity issues. During the 2018 Winter Olympics, North and South Korea marched together under a single flag and supported a unified women’s hockey team.

After the Games, the leaders of the two sides have met multiple times in pursuit of bilateral peace negotiations and are now reported to be pursuing a joint bid to co-host the 2032 Olympics. Mike Kooreman, who coached the USA men’s long track speed skating team in PyeongChang, will be in Tiffin for Elite Sport and Culture week.

EXCELLENCE: The individuals traveling to Tiffin for Elite Sport and Culture Week have attained the pinnacle achievement in sport as an Olympic/Paralympic athlete or coach, yet their everyday life beyond the Rings epitomizes a sustained path to excellence.

Sebastian Keitel, an Olympic sprinter in the 1996 Atlanta Games, won a general election and is a current member of the Chilean National Parliament. USA figure skater Wayne Seybold served as mayor for the city of Marion, Indiana. Katie Smith and Jon Koncak had successful careers in the WNBA and NBA.

Many of the Olympians are current sport executives shaping and influencing the competitive experience in international arenas. A few have worked on bids for Olympic host cities, others have been lauded by the United Nations for international humanitarian efforts in the fight against Ebola and corruption in underdeveloped nations, and several have been privileged to sit at the table with national presidents, parliament leaders and royalty.

As part of Elite Sport and Culture Week, the core values of the Olympics will be shared in schools and will be evident at the Festival of Champions. The free community event with free food and entertainment will showcase around 25 Olympians, coaches and a Paralympian in spotlight activities such as Dancing with the Olympians, Race the Olympian, a basketball shoot-out competition, and Minute-to-Win It Games.

Anyone who wins a medal at the YMCA Youth Games on Saturday will be invited to parade with the national flags and Olympians during the opening march of the Festival. All youth who completed the summer three-pillar challenge (sport, culture, education) will receive their official photo with an Olympian along with a backpack and water bottle.

Over 2000 give-aways will be available. The public can participate in fitness challenges, wellness programs, and sport activities in the track area and turf room or enjoy youth art, cultural activities, and almost 100 posters featuring Olympic themes. The Festival is truly an experience appealing to all ages.

More information is available at www.tiffin.edu/elite or on Facebook @ESC Week.

Elite Sport and Culture Week reinforces the fact that education through sport inspires hope, promotes cooperation and ethical conduct, and fosters a competitive spirit. The Olympics are an ideal forum to teach academic lessons associated with cultural awareness, political gamesmanship, managerial studies, marketing strategies, risk assessment, security, bio-technology, hospitality and tourism, and many other areas.

The most important lessons of the Games, however, are those intangible life lessons that are relatable to all ages, genders, nationalities, social backgrounds or income levels. Those lessons are embedded in the Olympic core values which contribute to lifelong behaviors rooted in respect, friendship and excellence.

Stay tuned next month for more interesting sport stories from around the world, throughout the country, and right here in northwest Ohio.

Bonnie Tiell is a professor of sports management at Tiffin University.