The highlight of the ceremonies that opened the London Olympic Games was the parade of nations. Country by country, the athletes entered the stadium to the beating of drums and thunderous applause. They were in great form and full of anticipation of the events for which they had trained so long and so hard.
Heading each delegation was the flag bearer, along with two young women, one carrying the name of the country and the other a large copper petal. While I wondered what the significance of the petal was, I quickly got caught up in the trek each flag bearer made up the grassy hill to plant their flag alongside all the rest. Together with the Olympic flag, they fluttered in the gentle breeze of the night air-a beautiful sign of international spirit at its best.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, others were receiving the copper petals and attaching them to long rods radiating from a central hub in the midst of the stadium.
With great anticipation we watched as Olympians passed torches to hopeful Olympians of the future. With reverence, they touched the petals and set them ablaze. With absolute amazement, we watched them rise up to become the great cauldron of Olympic flame that lit up the night sky.
Moments like this always bring me to tears-tears of joy for the spectacle of respect and peace among the nations. I find myself thinking of great texts from the writings of the prophets. “In days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord…’ and he will teach us his ways and we will walk in his paths” (Micah 4:1-2).
May the spirit of the London Olympics live on in the world. May the flame of these great games kindle in the hearts of all people the true love of peace. May it inspire us all to labour, without ever giving up, for that day of which the hymn writer speaks:
Let there be light,
let there be understanding,
let all the nations gather,
let them be face to face.
(Hymn #571, Common Praise)
Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.