As the London 1908 Olympics began, Bishop Ethelbert Talbot of Pennsylvania gave a sermon at St Paul’s Cathedral. He suggested that the struggle was more important than the prize. In the congregation that day was International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Baron Pierre de Coubertin. Very impressed by what he heard, Coubertin adapted the words to form the Olympic creed.
“The important thing in the Olympic Games is not so much to win, but to take part, just as the important thing in life is not to have conquered but to have fought well”.
What would the Baron have made of Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards? He was a one-time plasterer from Cheltenham in south-west England who burst on an unsuspecting world at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. His first name was not even Eddie but Michael.
As Britain had no ski jump, he travelled the world to pursue his dream. His fame preceded him when he literally arrived helter-skelter at the Olympics. His kit bag burst open in the airport arrivals hall. Wherever he went, huge crowds followed and cheered. In comparison, champion Matti Nykanen of Finland passed almost unnoticed. Edwards finished last in both the 70 metre and 90 metre competitions but the British Olympic Association’s own report even conceded: “His personality will have done just as much, if not more, for the promotion of ski jumping than Nykanen’s perfection.”
To this day, clause 57 of the Olympic charter insists: “The IOC and the Olympic Organising Committee shall not draw up any global ranking per country.”
For the majority of those who compete at an Olympic Games, a place on the podium is beyond their wildest dreams. Yet among these competitors is a distinguished roll call of those who never won gold but embodied the Olympic spirit.
- By Philip Barker
- Republished with permission insidethegames.biz