During any Olympic season, we are reminded of the resilience of the human spirit as we watch athletes test the endurance and pliability of their bodies. We are struck by and are often held in awe of what the human body is capable of.
It is hard to miss the Christian symbolism that surrounds the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. The imposing 38 metre Christ the Redeemer statue atop Mt Corcovado and Sugarloaf towering above the Maracana stadium is hard to miss. Even harder to miss too are women and men who overtly express their faith in God.
The world’s fastest man, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt is known for making the sign of the cross before setting off in a race and for clasping his hands and gazing upwards as an act of celebration and attributing glory to God for his wins. USA men’s platform divers, David Boudia, 26 and Steele Johnson, 20 won a silver medal. In an NBC interview, Johnson declared ‘We both know our identity in Christ. Going into this event knowing that my identity is rooted in Christ and not the results of this competition just gave me peace. God’s given us a cool opportunity…’
These athletes stand in a long line of women and men of faith who have honoured God with their athletic talent and inspired many. CWM shares in the legacy of such an athlete of faith in Eric Henry Liddell (1902-1945) who was a Scottish athlete, an international rugby player. Liddel served as a missionary to China with the London Missionary Society (LMS), the antecedent of CWM. Liddell’s story is depicted in the 1981 academy winning movie ‘Chariots of Fire’. His refusal to run a race on Sunday during the 1924 Paris Olympics resulted in him withdrawing from his best event, the 100-metres race. Nonetheless, he went on to win an Olympic gold medal in a 400 metres race. His life as a missionary to China and his brave service in a Japanese camp during the Second World War is documented in this book by Duncan Hamilton – “For The Glory: Eric Liddell’s Journey from Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr.”