I was ten years old, and I am fairly certain that I didn’t understand what a big deal it was. People from around the world had been preparing for years. For some, those brief two and a half weeks would be the most significant of their lives. Entire nations would have their attention focused on my hometown.
I was just excited to go watch some baseball and a funny sport called team handball.
Looking back on it now, I was incredibly blessed to have been able to attend the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. An overwhelming majority of people in the world will never even touch a ticket stub for an Olympic event. I know quite a few people, my wife included, who have “attend the Olympics” inscribed near the top of their bucket lists. I don’t blame them, as it is truly a magical series of events.
To me, the Olympics are best described as a global tribal gathering. Yes, there is competition. Sure, national pride runs deep every four years. As Americans in particular, we tend to expect a victory in the total medal count. Notwithstanding these realities though, a sense of community and togetherness shines through. The Opening Ceremonies, rather than any competitive event, tend to define each Olympics. This is as it should be.
So what would the Olympics look like in non-sports form? Let’s assume the whole world was willing to gather for some other purpose, sending official delegations, national leaders, support staff and even fans to one city for two weeks. What if that gathering captured the same spirit of hope and enthusiasm that permeates the Olympic Games? Perhaps the focus could even be something as ambitious as solving climate change. Can you imagine that?
It shouldn’t be too hard, because the Climate Change Olympics start this week in Paris. The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference or COP21 for short, is the most anticipated environmental event in…well, maybe forever. In short, the goal of the conference is a legally binding global agreement from all nations on how we will limit and mitigate the threat of climate change. So far, indications are that such an agreement has a good chance of becoming a reality, which is remarkable and incredibly exciting.
Will there be competition? Yep. Will national pride end up influencing a final agreement? Sure. Following an agreement, will some political leaders claim victory for their countries? I’d place a bet on that too.
Ultimately though, COP21 will be about community and togetherness. They are the virtues that give rise to the hope and enthusiasm surrounding this event. As with the Olympics, we are about to witness an amazing global tribal gathering. With this one, either we will all win or all lose. So let the games begin!