Later today I will travel to participate in the Inaugural Global Congress on Sports and Christianity in York, England. http://www2.yorksj.ac.uk/health--life-sciences/faculty-of-hls/faculty-events/igcsc.aspx I am greatly privileged to be making two presentations during the congress and will serve as the co-strand leader for Sports Chaplaincy.
I will report soon on the congress and its impact upon the world of sports chaplaincy.
Below is a report from the Olympic Games in Rio by our friend and colleague, Stuart Weir of Verite Sport in the United Kingdom. He offers some unique insight into the nature of sports chaplaincy at such events. I hope it is both informative and inspirational.
As I will not be able to send out a normal monthly update until October, I am sending two one-pagers on the Olympics and Paralympics.
My official role was as Togo Olympic Attaché. I went to rowing, swimming and athletics to watch our athletes and attended the team welcome ceremony but in all honesty, the role was not a demanding one. Being Olympic Attaché provided an accreditation which gave me access to the athletes’ village, athlete dining, athlete transport and several behind the scenes places at sports venues. Ironically the identical accreditation in London gave me far less privileges.
There were over 60 track and field athletes that I knew and 35 who had attended at least one Diamond League Bible Study, who were competing in the Games. Working as a team with Jules who was an official Olympic chaplain, I would say that we made contact with more than three quarters of them. Sometimes just a greeting or a hug, sometimes a prayer or a meal. Jules met several for Bible Study 1-2-1 or in groups. We were always conscious that the athletes were facing the biggest challenge of their year – career even – and that we were there to support but not make demands on them.
I was sending a daily devotional email to 50+ athletes competing in the games. Several told me that they found them helpful and encouraging.
Being in the Olympic Village and travelling on athlete buses gave lots of opportunities for informal contacts with athletes, coaches and team management, getting to know some and developing relationships with others.
The chaplaincy at Rio was very difficult with the Rio Organizing Committee only accrediting three international chaplains, compared to 19 in London. It was impossible for a team of three to cover the responsibilities of manning the chapel, conducting 16 services a week and meeting athletes individually.
I saw the Olympics as part of the ongoing support I try to provide for track and field athletes. It was my 10th event of the year. It was an immense privilege to be on the inside of the Olympics and I was pleased with the level of contact I had with athletes. See www.veritesport.org