A brief analysis of the significance and implementation of the Olympic values in the 21st century

30 May

I entered an essay contest re. the Olympic Values. The topic was given as the following – “a 400 – 500 word essay that addresses their interpretation of the meaning of Olympic Values for the 21st Century and outlines a creative way to realize them in the years ahead through sport, education, culture, or other public initiatives.”

My first draft ended up being somewhat lengthier and I ended up having to delete large parts thereof. I decided to post my initial draft on my blog, while I entered my much briefer final draft.

May you find my take on the Olympic Values of some value

 – Schroeds

A value in the broadest context refers to an ideal which serves as guideline or principle to a group or an individual. As a collective the values we abide by often dictate our sense of right and wrong, our priorities and our general moral perspective. Therefore many companies and organisations employ a set of values according to which they would like to manage, operate and function. This is ideal as values are not limited to a specific demography or group and allows for a diverse and inclusive environment, which excludes none on the basis of perspective, religious affiliation, life style or culture, while providing great opportunity for positive growth and integrity-driven operations. Value driven management leaves space for the opinions, feelings, views and perspectives of both minority and majority groups and for the individual.

In the 21st century in which the Olympic Movement caters to an exceedingly diverse world, values are of enormous significance in providing moral guidelines for the Olympics to abide by without alienating or excluding a group or individual. They also serve to unite the great number of organisations and associations affiliated with the Olympic Games which exists in this century under a similar charter and manner of operation. In addition the adoption of the Olympic values across the world can lead to a progressive, inclusive society which provides opportunities for positive growth and integrity-driven leadership to be established.

The three Olympic values are respect, friendliness and excellence. The values apply across a broad spectrum, but none more so than respect. To have respect applies on numerous level and probably applies first and foremost to having self-respect. In the simplest terms maintaining self-respect involves placing positive value on your own actions, honouring ones beliefs and maintaining a healthy life style. Respect is of particular importance as a value as it not only dictates how one behaves within himself but also in relation to all others. To respect something or someone is to hold it in high regard and to act with reverence when dealing with the involved individual, group or institution.

Respect for the culture, religion, life choices and opinions of others – be it an institution, a friend, colleague or competitor – creates an environment which is capable of hosting an infinitely diverse group.

To employ friendliness as a value in the 21st century does not merely mean to not engage someone in an antagonizing manner, but to behave with geniality, kindness and amiability towards someone.

To strive for excellence is an ideal as old as time – to simply be the best you can be by working as hard as possible to fulfil your own potential.

To see the Olympic values become more widely revered it is essential for organisations and individuals affiliated with the Olympic Movement to adopt them not only officially, but to truly implement these values in all dealings with the public, with athletes, internally and when establishing policy. To expect these values to be adopted by followers of the Olympics is impossible if the international sports federations, National Olympic Committees and Olympians don’t abide by them too. It is perhaps the opportunity of the athletes competing in the Olympics to illustrate the values through the manner that they live and compete which capable of having the greatest impact as they serve as role models and are admired by young and old alike.

Once the athletes and Olympic affiliated bodies adopt the values – which should be easy to accomplish as the values are so universally relevant and of clear importance that few will deny or resist the implementation – the real challenge begins. To take advantage of the wide reach of the Olympics and it’s athletes so that individuals and institutions are informed of the values, how they apply and realize the value of implementing value driven thinking in sport, education, leadership and social development.

The best possible method in which to do so is to employ a wide variety of platforms on which the values are prominently displayed. As athletes have an incredibly wide reach it would be hugely beneficially to involve several high profile Olympians to participate in online and print media campaigns to raise awareness of the Olympic values. The utilisation of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and perhaps the Chinese substitute for Twitter, Weibo, could have an immense impact on the level of global awareness of the values. This is arguably the first time in the history of the Olympics that social media could change the world’s awareness on a specific topic – to take advantage of that by employing these platforms by having athletes promote the values on their accounts would add greatly to the world wide adoption of the values.

In addition to raising awareness via various media in the immediate future and especially during the Olympics, long term projects to educate the youth could most efficiently be implemented via sport as the National Olympic Associations of each country and International Federations is already intimately involved with many sports on grassroots level. The adoption of the values could most easily be implemented in already established programs.

With the international appeal that the Olympics and the athletes that participate in the Olympics has, the responsible course of action, with regards to the Olympic values, would be to develop the understanding and awareness of the values as far and wide as possible. Value driven decision-making and value-driven leadership can truly make the world a better place.



Students as Agents for Social Change

29 May

The following post is not what I usually write about, it’s an essay that I wrote for a class I recently took. Please consider the context in which it was written – it is mostly a reflection of the topics covered in the class with some personal observations. The opinions, perceptions and perspectives are mine alone. 

I will be writing about the tennis within a day or two, so check back soon! – Schroeds

Students as agents for social change is a widely varied and broad concept to grasp. It is a concept which has changed according to the societal challenges faced by the world at specific points in time. It is a concept that has been present in South-Africa and throughout the rest of the world on several levels of influence.

In South-Africa’s past, students have acted as advocates for social change as a means to address major universally recognized humanitarian problems such as opposing an apartheid government. Students have also bought about social change on much smaller scale.

In the series of sessions about Students as agents for social change in an historic context, we were privileged to hear from several former student activists about their contrasting experiences. The memories of high school learners present during the 1976 Soweto uprisings, Dr. Llewellyn McMaster’s experiences as political activist as student council chairperson at UWC in the 1970’s, Mr Cecyl Esau who similarly served as a member of UWC’s student council during that time period and Prof. Anton van Niekerk, who was a politically conscience student at Stellenbosch University during the same period, while all very different experiences, all contributed to my continually changing perspective of student activism.

The interest of students on the Stellenbosch campus in student affairs and politics in the 1970’s drew fascination, since students today are found to be largely disinterested in politics. Prof. Van Niekerk spoke of well-attended mass meetings about issues of the day and a time in which the Prime Minister and then-chancellor B.J. Vorster would weigh in on decisions made by the SRc. I imagine a great many of us were quite amused by the idea that the current day president would comment on any student activity at a South-African University. While Prof. Van Niekerk told us with some amusement of the men’s residences’ doing patrols outside the women’s res’ at the time to protect them from the danger the “barbarians” or rather black activists represented in Stellenbosch, the students too exchanged amused glances as we had just heard from Mr. Esau, a freedom fighter in his own right, who had certainly faced far more real dangers as a student leader at UWC.

His moving account of about becoming involved in student activism against apartheid while still in high school and how he continued this while at UWC, one of the so-called bush campuses, available to non-white students seeking tertiary education during the apartheid era. As a member of a SRc primarily responsible for anti-apartheid actions, he risked almost certainly being arrested. This then also occurred on several instances and he recounted stories of his detainment at Victor Verster prison and on Robben Island. These imprisonments all occurred as a direct result of his activism as a student. The idea of being arrested for standing up for basic human rights is completely unimaginable to me as a student today and I imagine the other agents find the idea as foreign as I. While I’m sure some of the agents were angered by the trials and tribulations experienced by Mr. Esau, I felt both inspired by the man before us – for obvious reasons – and sad that activism for rights so basic could cost so many, so much.

Dr. Llewellyn McMaster told stories quite similar to Mr. Esau’s. They too elicited sadness and inspired simultaneously. Perhaps the stories told about the Soweto uprisings in June 1976 drew the most emotional response. Seeing young children suffer horrific tragedies as a direct result of them being fearless enough to stand up for what is right and to condemn the discrimination of the apartheid regime shocked me as it seems to do each time I am confronted with it. While another student verbalized her fury towards the perpetrators of the inhumane acts, I found myself to be profoundly and deeply sad for the innocence of which all those children had been robbed, of days playing in parks with no worries and fears whatsoever that they had been denied and the fact that it still took another fourteen years for apartheid to come to an end.

In the present time we have no major cause de célèbre such as apartheid to stand against as students, yet in the Students as agents for social change in the present context the socio-economic circumstances which are most prevalent in South-Africa is one which we can hope to raise awareness of and act as social activists against.

On a class excursion to the areas surrounding Stellenbosch the students participating in the class got firsthand experience of the poverty which many communities in South-Africa face at the present time. Children have very few opportunities to rise above their circumstances. There is a distinct need for youth fortunate enough to study at a tertiary institute to participate in community engagement programs and to raise awareness of the needs of many communities in our country. This could quite possibly be the most important social change our generation of students can hope to influence. Currently at the University of Stellenbosch numerous community outreach projects which aim to uplift the communities immediately surrounding Stellenbosch are in existence. Most students would tell you that these projects are extremely important, yet a great percentage of students are not involved with a project of any kind. While in an ideal world students would participate simply to benefit others, unfortunately the reality is that greater incentive needs to be provided to students to participate in social change via community engagement projects. Whether this is via providing credits in exchange for sanctioned projects or making community involvement a requisite for graduation, or residence allocation, I am in favour of holding more students socially responsible.

Other currently relevant issues include the need for sustainable practices. Campaigns to raise environmental awareness have been in place for several years now, both on our campus and nationally. These campaigns demonstrate the necessity for long term awareness campaigns as the efforts of both students and other organisers are now beginning to bear fruit both on our campus and nationally. Recycling, energy-saving and the production and buying of environmentally friendly products are on the increase. While South-Africa is not as progressed in this regard as needed, we are certainly making significant strides in the right direction with students leading the way. The environmentally friendly manner in which we live on campus can lead to an entire generation adopting these uses in life after graduation. The projects and awareness campaigns currently in place should certainly be built on and continued for the foreseeable future.

Debatably the largest issue requiring the attention and time of students that consider themselves social change agents is the apathy with regards to politics is prevalent among students today. Inspiring more students to take an interest in current affairs, politics and anything outside of the perceived Stellenbosch bubble, seems to be our greatest challenge right now.

While I as a South African student consider apathy, social-economic equality and sustainability to be the major issues of the present time, our international counterparts face their own set of social problems requiring change. In Northern Africa and the Middle East dictatorships and corrupt regimes have been overthrown in the recent past due to the activism of students. In Europe protests against increasing student fees and austerity measures have been witnessed. TIME magazine named The Protester as the Person of the Year in 2011. Social agents have made an impact unlike what has been seen in recent decades. The rise in social activism has been attributed to the rise of social media platforms by many. It has served as a meeting ground for commonly aligned individuals making organization of protests far simpler in addition to raising worldwide awareness of perceived wrongs.

Social activism is once again relevant. Students are the future. Hopefully students at the University of Stellenbosch will embrace the rebirth of social activism and change and rise to the challenge to change the world. One tweet, debate or march at a time.

Wimbledon: Men’s semi-finals

30 Jun

(Just a quick side note: This quickly written piece about the men’s semis will be my last entry for a few days – I’m off on a weekend away to celebrate my best friend’s birthday. Check back on Sunday evening for a Wimbledon Top 10 entry or a review of the tournament. In the meanwhile – enjoy the awesome weekend of tennis!)

The second Friday of the Wimbledon fortnight is the day on which the men’s semi-finals are contested. After 128 men started the tournament 12 days ago, only four remain. The semi-finals to be contested are Novak Djokovic vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Rafael Nadal vs. Andy Murray.

Semi-final 1: Novak Djokovic vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

The biggest upset of the tournament came in the men’s quarter-finals on Wednesday with the loss of title favourite Roger Federer. The six-time former champion looked set to win when he went two-sets to love up. His opponent Jo-Wilfried Tsonga did not however accept defeat and went on to win the match in five sets. He became the first man to come back from a two set deficit against Federer in a grand slam match.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia will be Tsonga’s semi-final opponent. Djokovic had a far tougher quarter-final match against Bernard Tomic than most expected. Tomic, an 18-year old Australian, won the second set to make it a best of three set match. He then went up a break in the third set and it seemed like more than one upset could be on the cards. Tomic was however reeled in by Djokovic who took the third and fourth sets to win the match despite his inability to consistently play at a high level.

 Tsonga – who was on fire against Federer particularly in the final two sets – will be hoping his serve remains in good shape. If he does serve at a level consistent with his performance in the previous match it is it is likely that he will give the world number 2 a serious challenge. Djokovic will be fancying his chances against the Frenchman to whom he has lost more often than not in the past. Tsonga might lead their head-to-head record 5-2, but Djokovic is the grand slam winner of the two and possesses a 41-1 record for the year to date. While Djokovic has undoubtedly been the best player in the world for much of the year, his form during Wimbledon has been sub par, and certainly not at a standard with which he will be satisfied. If his form fails to improve it is likely the match result will be on Tsonga’s racket. It is however doubtful that the flamboyant Frenchman will be able to maintain the level of play required to beat Djokovic for more than a couple of sets. As such, Djokovic ought to win. If his form improves to anything like it was prior to and during the French Open, he ought to win with relative ease.

My pick: Djokovic in five.

Semi-final 2: Rafael Nadal vs. Andy Murray

Much of the focus on Rafael Nadal has revolved around his injury problems – or if you prefer, the lack thereof. Regardless of the validity of his injury claims, he doesn’t seem to be suffering much and moved about as well as ever in his previous match against Mardy Fish. His injury problems are thus unlikely to have an effect on his performance during the final weekend of Wimbledon. Despite Fish managing to take a set off the defending champion, Nadal was very much the dominant player throughout the match. In addition to his brilliant form at the Championships, he is still enjoying the momentum provided by his win at the French Open.

His semi-final opponent is British hope Andy Murray. This is Murray’s third consecutive appearance in the final four at Wimbledon. He is due an appearance in the finals. The Brit’s form has been at a high level for the duration of the grass court season with a title win at the Queen’s Club tournament to his credit.

While Murray’s record against Nadal leaves much to be desired with Nadal leading 11 to 4, the British man has been playing some inspired tennis in the last few rounds of the tournament and is certainly capable of beating the Spaniard for a fifth time. This will still however be a tough assignment for Murray. Left-handed Nadal has developed a taste for grass since his first appearance at Wimbledon and will be the favourite to win the match. Nadal will be playing great tennis; whether or not he wins will be determined by the attitude and play Murray brings to the court. His best could send the defending champion packing.

My pick: Incredibly difficult to call, I’m hoping for a dramatic five-setter with the home favourite leaving the victor. As such I’m going with Murray in five, but I also know that Nadal could win in straights should Murray fail to show up with his absolute best.

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