The quote in the title of this post is from a story that John Furlong, Chief Executive Officer of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games has told many times over. As the story goes (source: http://www.vancouver2010.com), when John Furlong arrived in Canada more than thirty years ago from Ireland, a customs officer offered a warm but specific greeting: “Welcome to Canada – make us better.”
Dedication, Perseverance, Courage. The Olympic Games offer us a unique opportunity to celebrate the characteristics that allow an athlete to rise above the competition, and through this they offer inspiration to every person who follows them. Although commercialism has crept into every facet of our culture, these games, at their core, are not about money or fame. They are about sacrifice and pride. They are about striving to be the best that you can be, and wanting to inspire others to do their best. Raising the flag of each country on the podium isn’t just about “see what I did”, but more “see what you can do.” We can all be better – in sport, in our actions, in life. We can all strive to be that person who doesn’t say I am better than you, but rather I will help you to be better. We can all be better for our families, for our friends, for our environment, for the stranger on the corner without a jacket or a warm meal. As John Furlong said, in one of his many pre-Games speeches, “You know, the Games are about sport and are about athletes. But they’re also about unleashing the very best in every one of us. They’re about letting the star, the hero out in every person. They’re about a country rising to the occasion…truly rising to the occasion. You know, we can all be better; we can all do better.” (source: www.vancouver2010.com)
Every so often we get the chance to watch others excel, and it touches us in a way that makes us ask ourselves how can we be better? How can we inspire others to be better? What steps can we take to make our family, our community, our country, our world better? Just like with every Olympic medal, every remarkable life begins with one courageous step. What step can you take to raise your life to the next level?
I will end this post with more words from Mr. Furlong from the Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremonies. I hope these words resonate as much with you as they did with me, and let them be the spark or nudge that will help you live a life of great significance to those who know you, and to those that don’t. (source: www.cknw.com)
“As you, the best Winter Olympic athletes of all time, enter the arena prepared for you here in Canada to compete in the honour and glory of sport. Seizing the moment to inspire the youth of the world through your heroic efforts, you carry with you the hopes and the dreams of so many.
You are role models for our children – heroes, giants, human champions, the best ever. You are living proof that men and women everywhere are capable of doing great good, and that in life as it is in sport, we should always give our best and never, ever give up.
You are our beacon of hope in a world so much in need of peace, healing, unity, generosity and inspiration. Youth the world over aspire to be just like you. You compete with such bravery, conviction and pride.
As the Olympic Cauldron is lit, the unique magic of the Olympic Games will be released upon us. Magic so rare that it cannot be controlled by borders. The kind of magic that invades the human heart touching people of all cultures and beliefs. Magic that calls for the best that human beings have to offer. Magic that causes the athletes of the world to soar and the rest of us to dream.
Through our example tonight and over the 16 days to come our children will begin to dream and believe in what is possible. Lives of great significance begin with a spark, a nudge, a gesture. Together let us touch as many as we can, while we can.”