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Should London 2012 have a higher calling?

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Adrian Warner | 17:00 UK time, Tuesday, 9 November 2010

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Variety really is the spice of life and one of the most rewarding aspects of my job is getting to speak to so many differents sorts of people in contrasting environments.

That's because the Olympics goes a long way beyond sport and it's going to affect a huge amount of life in London and in the UK. I'm not convinced the country's totally understood that yet.

The other day I found myself amongst a group of Church leaders at Leyton Orient Football Club in east London, close to the 2012 Olympic Park.

Looking out of the window at the construction site, representatives from churches across London and the south east were holding hands and praying for the Games to go well.

The religious community is gearing up for a major campaign around the Olympics. It's called "More than Gold" and involves a large group of churches -- Methodists, Baptists, the Church of England and the Salvation Army.

They want churches up and down the country to play a major role in the Games. They have ideas like providing accommodation for volunteers and for the families of foreign athletes. They also want to organise a prayer relay to follow the torch around the UK and they plan to set up events linked to the Games.

Churches have played a big role in the Games since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta in the United States.

Duncan Green, the Church of England's Olympics coordinator, told me that the church has to be involved in the biggest event in Britain for decades. Otherwise it really could be accused of being irrelevant to life today, he says.

But is it right for the religious community to get involved in the Olympics? Do sport and religion really mix?


  • Comment number 1.

    Mr Warner,

    The Olympics seemed to do fairly well before the Atlanta games of '96 when the God Botherers got in on the act. Duncan Green, as you point out, the Church of England's Olympic co-ordinator, hits the nail fairly and squarely on the head - yes the church is irrelevant in life today. A method of communication and control in days gone by (and arguably it remains so today), the church was used pre telephone, media et al, to control the masses by fear - fear of eternal damnation, the prediction of a life in hell. True it had some good points, instructing people how to live a law abiding and fulfilling life, but the church's hierarchy have detached themselves from real people in this and other countries by flying in the face of common sense and public opinion. Believe it or not the halal ruling of some religions had good reason in that the meat went off in hot countries if it still had blood in it post life. Why religion continues to sustain these requirements when we have perfectly good refridgerators down the Kilburn High Road I don't know.

    Should the Church have anything to do with the Olympics; most definitley not. They have mucked up about everything that they have ever been involved with over the last two millenia. I struggle to think what positive, or more importantly, what meaningful input they could possibly have - perhaps standing outside Leyton Orient Football Club shouting "Blessed are the Hurdle Makers"?

    Flippant comments, maybe. The Church have a wonderful record of putting their nose in where it's not wanted and, frankly, where not qualified to do so. Just because a group of weird beards dress up in outdated ceremonies on a Sunday claiming that what's in front of them is actually the blood and body of christ, why does this give them the authority to have a valid opinion worthy of broadcast on anything from homosexuality (got that wrong didn't they), Foreign policy (they all live in Utopia) and a variety of other ridiculous stand points (Catholics - contraception for example particularly in Africa!). Everyman unto his own, they keep their opinion to themselves and I'll do likewise but the last thing we want is some nutter blessing the diving pool or trying to calm the waters of the canoe slalom.

  • Comment number 2.

    Re the comment from Simon Sonic… I am sorry SImon has such a negative view of the church. Clearly he has not experienced the very positive aspects of Christian community and really has got the wrong end of the stick concerning the church and the Olympic Games.

    Whenever people group together there is the potential for human failing to adulterate the wholesome aspirations of the many. This is true of governments, political movements, religious groups and so on. But there is also the potential for good. It is sad when we write off the whole because of a failed part. The church has failures to its name but also has been a major social influence for good.

    Controlling? Offering hospitality and so on to athletes and their families seems to be be quite the opposite – an act of service. It seems to me that if the church does a good job here, not only will it be good for the athletes and their families, but it will also be good for our nation.

    Let’s celebrate when people wish to contribute something positive - not criticise!

  • Comment number 3.

    If the church and religous people want to get involved on their own terms in a friendly, non-pushy way good for them, but no special treatment or pandering to their whims please.

    What I mean by that is they should abide by the same rules as every other organisation or business in this country in the lead up to 2012. If they try to piggy-back the Games to broadcast their message they should be in the courts just as any business which isn't a sponsor of the Games will be if they try to associate their "brand" with the Olympics. A prayer relay following the torch relay sounds close to the mark to me. Let's see if LOCOG has the bravery to treat the church like any other business in the coming years. The last thing I want to see is a Games hijacked by people who aren't challenged because LOCOG are afraid of treating religious "ambush marketing" in the same manner they'd treat any other form.

    So yes, the churh should be open for business, trying to attract new followers, and doing their bit just as other Londoners will be regardless of their religion. It'd be churlish to ignore the positives the church can offer in terms of accommodation, volunteering and general well-being for those who want their services. But no special treatment, that's not too much to ask.

  • Comment number 4.

    But is it right for the religious community to get involved in the Olympics?

    I was under the impression from the London 2012 bid book that it was an opportunity for everyone in Britain to benefit from the games? After all Adrian, as you incessantly point out, British taxpayers have contributed significantly, so British taxpayers should see some return on their investment. Of course there are copyright and marketing restrictions on how organisations associate themselves with the Olympic brand. But within those legalities its fair game for everybody to make the most of it. Just like the millions of licence fee payers who associate with faith groups should have some influence on the output of the BBC.

    RobH, a quick search on the More Than Gold website reveals:

    More Than Gold encourages churches on the Torch Relay route to make the most of this memorable event by –
    • Serving food and drink to the crowds
    • Providing entertainment
    • Praying for their community and the UK as a whole as the Relay makes its way across the country

    Are you suggesting that these churches past which the relay goes should be censored from these activities?

  • Comment number 5.

    That sounds fair enough, but that's not quite how this blog sold it. It's a difficult line to tread for LOCOG, but they've no reason to be in thrall of any religious group if they try to piggy-back the event in a way which would see a commercial business that's not a sponsor of the Games in court.

  • Comment number 6.

    I suspect that so long as this is done on a cooperation-based multi-faith set up, things will go swimmingly. After all, the global participants are hardly likely to be exclusively Christian or Muslim, are they?


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