The Modern Olympic Games
BEFORE THE GAMES The prospect of being selected for the Olympic Games is the ultimate goal for the majority of athletes.
Enormous reserves of willpower and many years of dedicated training are required to achieve this goal. Those athletes that qualify for the Games can consider themselves as being among the world’s best. They will become Olympians, whether or not they win a medal.
In practical terms, in order to participate in the Olympic Games, athletes have to abide by the Olympic Charter and the rules of the International Federation (IF) responsible for their sport. The IFs organise qualification events, while the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of the athlete’s country is responsible for entering athletes for the Games.
WHAT IS THE OLYMPIC CHARTER? It is a document containing all the rules of the IOC.
Athletes with dual nationality may compete for the country of their choice. However, if they have already represented one country either at the Games or another major sports event, they may not compete for a different country before three years have elapsed.
There is no age limit for competing in the Olympic Games, except for those that may be imposed by individual IFs for health reasons. In some sports, such as equestrian, fencing and sailing, athletes can enjoy very long Olympic careers, sometimes as long as 40 years !
By entering the Olympic Games, athletes are making a commitment to respect the Olympic values and agree to undergo doping tests. Throughout the Games, tests are carried out under the authority of the IOC and its Medical Commission. Tests may also be conducted during the pre-Games period. During the competitions, the first four athletes are tested, along with two other athletes chosen at random.
ATHLETES AT THE GAMES: THE OLYMPIC VILLAGE On their arrival in the host city, athletes stay in the Olympic Village. While at the Games, their time is not devoted exclusively to competing: it is also an opportunity for them to meet other athletes. Communal life is good for encouraging contact between athletes from different sports or different countries. All of the inhabitants of the Village agree: it is not about the comfort of the surroundings or the quality of services, what counts is the relationships created between athletes of the entire world.
Anita L. DeFrantz, Olympian and IOC member, said of her experience in the Village: “For two to four weeks, the Village becomes the home for the elite athletes of the world. It was there that I realised that excellence comes in every shape, size, race and sex. It was there that I realised that an Olympian is one who can respect every individual based on the effort that it takes to become an Olympian. It was there that I learned that each sport takes a special skill and determination for a person to ascend to the top.” Olympic Message, no 33, July 1992.