A nation’s spirit

During the Olympic Games we have watched how winning at sports can boost a nation’s »»

During the Olympic Games we have watched how winning at sports can boost a nation’s spirit.

This past week, nations and winners have been celebrating at the 2012 London Olympics. While I was in London the past four days or so, I observed the half-decent weather for the city to host the Olympic Games and much more. Although I was not in London to go to the Games, I could not help but be drawn in to all the enthusiasm. It was awesome to see the British people I was with on Saturday night watching the “telly,” as the Brits say, get so excited when the crowning glory came -- Usain Bolt. On Saturday alone, Britain won six gold medals. Truly, the nation’s spirit was boosted. In 1996 at the Olympic Games in Atlanta Britain won only one medal.

I believe Britain has not only performed well at the Olympics but also has hosted the Games well. The country has been on display; millions from around the world have come to London during these days. Many travelers have expressed their appreciation at how British people have been cheery and helpful. Nearly everything has been well organized: There was some confusion about all the empty seats and no tickets available in the beginning, but this got sorted quickly. As an American visiting in London, I was really struck by the multicultural aspect while watching the GB 2012 team and the fans.

On the greatest night in British sports history was the victory of the nation’s heroes: a mixed-race woman from Sheffield named Jessica Ennis and a man called Mo (Farah) born in Mogadishu, who moved to England when he was 8 years old, and, as the Brits say, “ a bloke” from Milton Keynes known as Greg Rutherford.

Nobody can deny that Britain in more ways than one has performed well and is showing the world tolerance, diversity and acceptance. Any nation that hosts the next Olympics will have a hard act to follow.

An inspiration for multiculturalism is British icon Jessica Ennis, who as the face of London 2012 was looking down from every advertising poster. She has carried a burden of expectation. Ennis was born in Sheffield. Her father came from Jamaica to England as a young man in search of a better life. Ennis has had her own personal struggles and injuries to get to where she is. She has shown how perseverance and determination counts.

Another striking point I have noticed while watching the Games has been the increasing number of female athletes from Middle Eastern countries participating. Female athletes who have come from the Middle East and Asia have not always had the necessary support in place. Perhaps, the London Olympics and the nation, which have been tremendous models, will spur other nations on to provide the support and encouragement needed for these young female athletes to follow their dreams and aspirations.

Turkey has come a long way. It was not that long ago women began to participate in sports. Is the place of woman in Muslim society changing?

In my piece “A woman’s spirit” (Feb. 15, 2010), some facts are provided that show Turkey continues to score low on the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index, despite an increase in Turkey’s life expectancy rates, literacy and gross national product (GNP) over the past 27 years. The report revealed that overall the country slipped three places in 2009, but specifically the role of women in society has earned the worst mark, ranking 101 out of 109.

International concern arises for issues of abuse when the role of women in a society remains very low. The country seems to have regressed according to the UN Human Development Index. Turkey still has a long way to go to empower women politically and economically in order to achieve gender equality. Turkey is ahead of Tonga, Morocco, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bangladesh and Yemen. It scored higher than Armenia and Iran. It is important to note that the report considers factors such as poverty, gender, democracy, human rights, cultural liberty and so on. In the poverty index, Turkey is ranked 40 out of 135 countries, in the under-40s mortality rate it was ranked 50, and in the literacy index it ranked 77. However, the lowest-ranked position for Turkey in the UNDP’s index report was in the gender empowerment measure.

In my next piece I will explore more the role of sports for Turkish females. What does the future hold for women in Middle Eastern and Asian countries? Can female athletes hope for more in the future?

Note: Charlotte McPherson is the author of “Culture Smart: Turkey” 2005. Please keep your questions and observations coming: I want to ensure this column is a help to you, Today’s Zaman’s readers. Email: [email protected]