How I See the Rio Olympics

 In Pei Blog

Every day while looking at the medal count, I couldn’t help but think of the undiscovered beauty that we’re missing.

I’ve loved watching the Olympics.  It’s been inspiring to see the incredible talent of athletes around the world, and to learn about their families, challenges, and cultural backgrounds.  I’ve especially enjoyed the feature pieces and backstories of lesser-known athletes from countries that aren’t always in the spotlight.

While these stories help to provide some perspective and balance, it’s still easy for me to get self-absorbed in the success of the United States.  Every day, I’ve rooted for the U.S. team and every night, there they are at the top of the medal count chart.  Sometimes I’m tempted to wonder, “Wow, does the U. S. really have the best athletes in the world?”

And then I get some more perspective.  Below is a recent medal count, right above a list of the top economic powers in the world:

Medal Count










Top Economies












Is it any surprise that there’s so much overlap between the two lists?  After all, money allows funding and support to develop talent in sports.  It allows for the formation and development of professional leagues, coaches, technology and research to develop better techniques, and so on.  Money allows for media coverage of these sports, which little kids then watch and makes them dream of playing those sports.  But if they live in America — a top power in the world — they actually have the resources to help them develop that passion and talent.  Just check out this website.

Maybe this is an obvious point.  But these days as I watch the Olympics, I also think of all the talent and creativity in individuals around the world, who may never be discovered.  When I see an athlete win a gold medal and they’re called “the best in the world,” I think of the people who have the raw ability and gifts to be even better, but simply don’t have the resources to develop them, or the platform to show them to the world.

But God sees them.  And that’s what I love about the picture of leadership in the kingdom of God, that Jesus painted.  When he selected a leadership team, he could have chosen the most educated, wealthy, or influential people in his society.  That would be strategic and smart, according to what we are taught in our day and age.  But Jesus instead chose people who were uneducated and poor.  He chose leaders who would have been overlooked by everyone else.

There’s a verse in the Bible that says that there will come a time when people of every tribe, tongue, nation, and language will gather before God (Revelation 7:9).  Some see the Olympics as giving a small glimpse into this vision.  But even in the Olympics, the cameras draw a bit closer to the star athletes, and the wealthier nations.

In the kingdom of God, things are different.  We might have high regard for leaders who speak at national conferences or write books and blogs.  But they are not more important than leaders who have never attended a conference, nor published a sentence in their lives.  In the kingdom of God, the first will be last, and the last will be first.

I love the Olympics and find them inspiring.  But I find true hope when I see the statue of “Christ the Redeemer” with arms stretched out over Rio, knowing that Jesus sees all people — especially those who will never make it to the Olympics, and those whose stories the world may never know.

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