BBC Radio 2: Can religious faith help win medals?

Monday 6 August 2012, 18:48

Kellie Redmond Kellie Redmond Radio producer

Tagged with:

Mo Farah and Kellie Mo Farah and Kellie

Like most of the nation, and indeed the world, I’ll be watching the big-draw names like Usain Bolt and Mo Farah taking part in the London 2012 Games on TV this summer.

But unlike most others, I’ll be looking closely to see signs of these top-level athletes quietly uttering their prayers on the starting blocks or looking up to the heavens as they cross the finish line.

This is because, for the past four months, myself and the programme’s presenter BBC Sport’s Dan Walker (Football Focus, Euro 2012, The Open and, of course, now the Olympics themselves) have travelled up and down the country talking to Olympians past and present in our quest to find out whether religious faith can give a world class athlete an edge. Can it even help them… win medals?

As you would imagine, getting access to the sports stars of various faiths proved the biggest challenge, although, surprisingly, this was not because they didn’t want to talk about their innermost beliefs. Their training schedules and constant competitions in both the UK and abroad meant there was very little downtime. And imagine just how much that cranks up in the build up to an event like The Olympics…

Jonathan Edwards and Dan Jonathan Edwards and Dan Once Dan and I did manage to cross paths with these much in-demand top sportsmen and women, they freely shared their different inspiring, personal stories of faith. I also managed to track down some rare audio from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, never heard on the BBC before, which captures some of the public’s favourite stars trackside and offers amazing insights into their faith practices right in the midst of competition.

We hope you’ll find it as fascinating as we have hearing the likes of Bolt, Farah, Christine Ohuruogu and many other big sports names as they speak openly about their belief in God or another higher power and share just what part this plays in the way they train and compete.

Dan himself is a practicing Christian, so I was keen that we included his own personal thoughts in the programme, especially as he doesn’t work on a Sunday as it’s seen as a holy day - something that also poses problems for some of the athletes featured in the programme.

I felt it was also important to talk to those without any faith for the programme – including various top sports scientists and psychologists – who have provided a very different, yet equally fascinating view of the relationship between religion and sport. Four-times gold-medal winning rower Sir Matthew Pinsent plus world champion triple jumper (and now former Christian) Jonathan Edwards also offer some unmissable, alternative thoughts.

Among the many I’ve been privileged to interview are practicing Muslim Mo Farah, Britain’s only female amputee sprinter and Christian Stef Reid and members of Team GB’s rowing squad (which has a rich mix of Christians from different denominations, a Muslim, a Jehovah’s Witness, an atheist and more). I’ve stood at windy boating lakes, at finish lines and at Team GB training grounds plus scurried around Olympic Park and visited personal homes.

There have been giggles as well as tears not to mention disbelief (which includes the fact I still can’t believe I asked for the main PA system to be turned down at the Bupa 10K run in London’s Green Park, so I that could interview Mo Farah without the booming background sound of S Club 7’s Reach (For The Stars). I did and it was).

Power-pop aside, there have been some genuine spine-tingling moments that we have sought to capture in our bid to relate the mystery of faith. It’s hard to recount them here without spoiling the programme. But, I will say, among the many surprises is the almost unanimous response to the question of whether it is right to pray to win.

Having previously worked on the mammoth Radio 2 archive series, Sounds of the 20th Century, I’ve also eagerly sought out some archive gems. Relive historic sporting moments with fresh eyes (or rather ears) as you learn the personal faith stories behind them from the very athletes involved.

So, does having a faith help win medals? You’ll have to tune in to find out…

Leap of Faith is on BBC Radio 2 on Tuesday 7th August at 9pm. You can hear a clip of athlete Christine Ohuruogu where she reveals the bible verse that helped her at the Beijing Olympics.

Kellie Redmond is an award-winning journalist and radio producer. She currently produces
Trevor Nelson’s Soul Show on BBC Radio 2 as well as working on other documentaries and is producing live Olympic shows for the BBC during the London 2012 Games.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash Installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content

Olympic Christine Ohuruogu reveals the bible verse that helped her win gold in Beijing.

Tagged with:

Comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1.

    Of course not, how can an imaginary friend help you in any way?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 2.

    "Faith: Pretending to know things you don't know" - Dr. Peter Boghossian

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 3.

    The words faith and religion are so misused in society. To have faith means to have trust and to put hope in something. Whether you have evidence or not is irrelevant to the definition. And religion doesn't need to have anything to do with God - it's about devoted behaviour.

    Everyone has faith in something, and display religious behaviour in response. Most common nowadays is faith in consumption (that it brings contentment) and the religious response is to construct your life around enabling and partaking in that consumption.

    Let's not have this patronising nonsense looking down on people that 'have faith'. The important thing is what you're putting your faith in.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 4.

    It would be interesting to look at the Olympics as a movement and the faith athletes put in it to bring them fulfilment, and their religious response is to eat, sleep, breath, train, to do everything to enable them to receive all that the Olympics offers. How many people have the rings tattooed on them? How many of them put their lives on hold so they can do their best to the exclusion of everything else?

    Perhaps for these people the 'higher power' is the Olympics itself. After all, the opening ceremony was something of a worship service, and the cauldron creator said that the stadium was like a temple, the cauldron like an altar. Even if the Olympics isn't seen like that, for others their country is what they put their faith in. They sing songs (national anthem, as well as chants in the crowd, etc.), have icons (the flag) and feel as though they are competing both on behalf of their country and with the support of their country. If this language isn't like what we often use to refer to God then I don't know what is?

    For me, I believe it's because we were made to worship God, to put our faith in Him and to respond to Him in love and commitment through our thoughts and actions. For those that reject this, there is still that innate desire to find faith in something and to respond in commitment, and many put their faith in competition, or in their country, or in the hedonistic pursuit of increased consumption.

    Perhaps this'd be quite a large programme in scope?!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 5.

    So who does s/he help to win. There will always be a percentage of people who cross themselves, touch their lucky rabit's foot, turn round twice before they leave the changing room. Does s/he help them win, I doubt it, does it help them feel more confident and perform better, in all probability yes.

    I am reminded that most armies in history ave felt that they have a god on their side and often the same god is on both sides. Even the communist Russians re-recruited the same god that the Fascists worshipped, when it suited them. Did it make any difference? Probably, but not because god intervened.

 
 

This entry is now closed for comments

Share this page

More Posts

Previous
RAJARS Q2 2012: A round up

Thursday 2 August 2012, 11:10

Next
Musical round up - 1Xtra's 10th birthday; Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Mark Kermode's musical roots

Friday 10 August 2012, 16:09

About this Blog

The BBC Radio team explain their decisions, highlight changes and share news from all of BBC radio.

Blog Updates

Stay updated with the latest posts from the blog.

Subscribe using:

What are feeds?

Most Recently Commented