A while back the Greeks came up with an idea. Yet as opposed to what their informal logo would have us believe: “The most important thing is not to win but to take part”, the Games are actually all about winning. Ask anybody who came 4th or even 2nd for that matter.
In Judaism though, one of the most central ideas is the emphasis placed on effort as opposed to result. To paraphrase the teaching in Pireki Avot (2:21): “Our job is not to complete but to compete”. Whether we cross the finishing line or not, the important thing is that we left the starter’s blocks. Which means it’s never too late to start.
Obviously there’s no denying the fun, excitement, colour and spectacle of the Olympics for the spectator, and like everyone else I will doubtlessly be downloading the Olympic app to stay in touch. But the central message of the Games isn’t the one we live by. To us effort counts for everything.
Of course the Olympics aren’t all about glory, they’re also about economics. Every four years a different city hosts the Games and goes bankrupt in the process – the most extreme example being Montreal – and the ones in 2012 will cost £10b. Come to think of it, I guess it’s quite fitting that the idea originated in Greece.