It’s like seeing an Orca breach 50 yards off starboard, this sense of arrest that is apt to seize us at some point in the course of Olympic events. For a moment, the world stops as we witness the climax of a fellow human being’s real story of sustained striving for excellence. The event after the event—the recognition—leaves a smile on our face that reflects theirs. We are better somehow, having paused to appreciate. If the only after-evidence of an Olympiad is an occasional endorsement or picture on a cereal box, the fact remains that our world is infused with some measure of young heroic energy, even if it breaks the surface of our seeing just once in four years.

Medals earned are important symbols but the lesser proceeds of competition. The greater portion is competence. We recognize these athletes develop surpassing competence not only in their field of endeavor, but in a range of life skills that continue to serve them and contribute to others. And athletes are not the only ones who made heroic efforts recently. The people of London—who last hosted the Olympics in 1948 with their land still torn from bombings and their own undernourished—did bloody well too!

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”

— Pierre de Coubertin – Founder of Modern Olympic Games