On Monday, February 26, the International Relations Council hosted its second Global Experience discussion event. A group of community members gathered at Port Fonda restaurant in Westport to discuss the international implications of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Discussion questions included: Do the Olympics have any beneficial impact on world peace? Should performance enhancing drugs be permitted in the Olympics? Should the Olympics focus more on individual athletes and deemphasize national teams? Should there be an artistic competition along with sporting competition? Should both the summer and winter Olympics continue to be held in a different city every four years? Should we discontinue the Olympics?
The discussion was stimulating and timely, as the 2018 Olympics had ended the night before. The two discussion groups touched on the beneficial impact of learning about other countries and cultures through the games, and how this can increase a country’s pride and self-esteem and can contribute to a sense of global community. A prime example is the Olympic athlete from Tonga who made headlines in the Rio Summer Olympics of 2016. His reappearance as a winter athlete reminded attendees that without his shirtless escapade during the opening ceremony, perhaps fewer people would take the time to learn about Tonga and its people. Furthermore, discussions of doping as well as locations for the Olympics centered on the possible exploitation and disenfranchisement of less-developed countries. Should doping be allowed, poorer countries would have a difficult time matching the state-sponsored doping programs of wealthy nations, such as in Russia. Furthermore, privileging a few cities with the right to hold the Olympics to reduce waste would prevent the ability of the global audience to learn about new places and cultures. The merits of an international Olympic fund to aid less-developed nations in sponsoring the Olympic Games were also debated.
This event helped attendees to consider how their lives, the Kansas City community, and the nation are affected by these games. If they are to continue, it is worth establishing a dialogue to ensure they fulfill their stated goal: "… to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity." This dialogue was a meaningful step toward fulfilling this goal, as discussion must always be at the center of progress and development at the global level.
Maya Van Nuys is a junior at the University of Kansas with majors in Global and International Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies and minors in French and Economics.
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