Our hearts are heavy since learning of Nelson Mandela’s death yesterday. Although old in age and having done so much to change our world, many of us are finding it difficult to say goodbye–to bid farewell to a pillar in our international community.
It is a sense of trepidation that I feel when I consider a future without Mandela. I wonder how we will all continue to fight for equality and social justice when such an influential figure is no longer here to inspire us.
13 years ago, Mandela gave a speech in Monaco during which he spoke these powerful and unforgettable words:
“Sport has the power to change the world, it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”
During his 95 years, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was always learning, growing, and advocating change. He never gave up. Never surrendered–even when faced with countless hurdles of cruelty and injustice. Instead, he stood firm in his quest for a world without hate, prejudice, injustice, and inequality. His unwavering strength, courage, and passion for change is known to have inspired countless others over the decades. Yet perhaps now–in a post-Mandela world–is when his legacy should influence us all the more.
In less than two months the 2014 Winter Olympics will open in Sochi, Russia. These games which were designed to ensure ‘all sports for all people’ are being hosted by a country where homosexuality is banned and stories of persecution against sexual minorities are being reported. Sochi is this century’s Berlin. A sporting movement which Pierre de Coubertin designed to promote peace, athletics, and equality is once again being held in a country whose laws and actions directly contradict the tenets of the Olympic Movement and the late Mandela.
The torch must now be passed on–but not from Mandela to a single heir-apparent. Rather, shouldn’t we all collectively take the torch and vow to move forward, to do our part? Athletes competing next year in Sochi will represent both genders, all sexual orientations, all races, and a diverse number of religions. They–along with us, the fans–have “the power to change the world.” Their actions, their performances, and our support of them can help inspire change. We not only owe this to Mandela, but more importantly, we owe this to ourselves and posterity.
Faster, Higher, Stronger.