"I GIVE all the glory to God. It's kind of a win-win situation.
The glory goes up to him, and the blessings fall down on me." Gabby
Douglas, the 16-year-old American gymnast who took gold in both the
individual and team categories at the 2012 Olympic Games, is among
the Olympians who have taken to the airwaves and social-media sites
to talk about their faith.
"Never give up on your dreams!!!! God is good," Sanya
Richards-Ross wrote on Twitter, after triumphing in the 400m
women's race last Sunday.
In second place in that race was Christine Ohuruogu, who was
brought up less than a mile from the Olympic Park in Stratford,
east London, and attended St Edward's C of E School, Romford, and
Trinity RC High School, Woodford Green.
Jason Kenny, who has won two golds in cycling - both the team
sprint and the individual sprint - is the son of a nursery teacher
at Canon Sharples School in Wigan.
One former Olympian impressed by the witness of Christians is
the Revd Michael Lapage, a retired Anglican priest, who was part of
the British rowing team that took the silver medal in the men's
eight at the 1948 Olympics.
There were lessons to be learned, and parallels to be drawn,
between the Christian life and the Games, he said on Tuesday.
"There are New Testament allusions to the Games which Paul must
have attended in Corinth, and lots of advice: forgetting those
things that are past; 'I reach for the prize'; the cloud of
witnesses in Hebrews 12."
Mr Lapage, who carried the Olympic torch through St Austell in
Cornwall on the first day of the relay in May, said that the Games
of today were very different from those held in 1948, which were an
"austerity Olympics", and run "on a shoe-string".
He took up his place at Cambridge in 1946, after serving as a
pilot in the Fleet Air Arm during the Second World War, and was on
the Cambridge team that formed the Olympic team two years later. Mr
Lapage later became a missionary in Kenya.
More than 2000 volunteers representing over 40 countries have
come to Britain to help churches during the 2012 Games, the charity
More than Gold reported last Sunday. The volunteers are helping
churches to run children's clubs, big-screen community festivals,
and sports clinics, while talking about Christianity "with all who
might be interested". But proselytising was not on the agenda.
Despite holding their beliefs passionately, "we're determined
not to force-feed [them to] people," said Jon Burns, the UK
Director of the charity. He had seen litter-bins full of religious
literature that had been given to people who did not want it, he
said. "We want our international volunteers to serve people, and to
engage with them - just as Jesus did."
Sherri Oldevak, a volunteer from South Carolina, in the United
States, said that sport could be used to draw people into
conversation. "We pull people from the audience to interact with us
as we spin six basketballs on our fingers and toes at the same
time. People are intrigued by what you're doing, and ask questions.
This is our link to share the gospel."
Christian households have also enabled the families of foreign
athletes to experience "the heart of British home-life" by
providing accommodation during the Games, under the Homestay
initiative organised by More than Gold.
"Jesus Christ was someone who served people, who met their
needs, joined in their celebrations," Canon Hugh Dibbins, a retired
priest, told Radio 4's Sunday programme this week.
"Stories of what happened in the 2012 Olympics are passed on from
generation to generation, and contacts continue, even though the
One story likely to make its way across the ocean is the tale of
the Madagascan Olympic athletes and their families who landed at
Luton with no luggage. On opening the door to guests with only the
clothes they stood up in, Sister Anne Spilberg, part of the
Homestay scheme, went to Brentwood Roman Catholic Church to ask for
help. The immediate donations included 20 bags of clothes.
Churches have also been opening their doors to international
visitors. St John's, Stratford, is working with churches in the
area to host a series of Olympics-related events. "Jesus told us to
go into the world; now the world is coming to us," the Vicar of St
John's, the Revd David Richards, said.
Out on the streets, almost 300 Games Pastors have been deployed
to provide practical, emotional, and spiritual support to the
public, at all the main transport hubs in London; in Newcastle and
Coventry, where football has been played; and at Heathrow and Luton
The operations manager for Games Pastors at More than Gold, Mike
Freeman, said that each day pastors had engaged with people in need
of a listening ear. He believes that the programme will have a
legacy: "People are thinking outside the walls of the church."
This is also the hope of Canon Duncan Green, who is head of
multifaith chaplaincy services for the Games, with a team of almost
200 volunteer chaplains (
Features, 27 July). He is pleased with the way things have gone
"You only have to look around the country and see how many
millions are interested in sport," he said on Monday. "We need to
be on board, encouraging people to be lay chaplains."
He is confident that the legacy of the Games is already here.
"If you look at the way east London has been regenerated, it would
have taken 35 or 40 years under normal circumstances, but it's been
done in under seven. There is also a legacy in the way faith
communities have worked together on this project."
It is a verdict echoed by the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu.
"The regeneration of poorer areas such as the East End of London
will make a difference for future generations," he told The
Independent. "There is a real sense of hope, and we need to
nurture the dreams and aspirations of young people."
While the women's marathon was taking place last Sunday, an
endurance test of a very different kind was taking place in the
bell-tower of St Paul's, when, for the first time, an all-women
band rang the Cathedral's 12 bells to a peal. The ringers ranged in
age from their 20s to their 60s, and completed the peal in three
hours and 57 minutes, applauded at the finish by cheering from the
churchyard. The heaviest bell, weighing three tons (more than
61cwt), was pulled by two women.
The conductor of the band, Susan Apter, said: "Everyone rang
fantastically. We didn't just do it, we did it in style, and that
was great." It was also a "poignant" experience, as Alison Regan,
tower captain and master at All Saints', Worcester, who was to have
rung the 11th bell, died suddenly on 12 July, after a short
illness. "We were all thinking of her, and it spurred us on," Mrs
During Games that have seen Yorkshire scoop ten medals, half of
them gold (placing it tenth, at the time of writing, in the league
table), pupils at one school in the county had the Olympics come to
them. On Monday, a three-day eventer, Nicola Wilson, who helped her
team win a silver medal last Monday, visited her primary school,
Ainderby Steeple C of E school.
When the closing ceremony concludes the Games on Sunday,
attention will switch to the Paralympic Games, which open on 29
August. In Team GB is Britain's only female amputee sprinter,
Stefanie Reed, who lost her foot when she was just 16. Echoing Eric
Liddell, she told Radio 2's Leap of Faith programme on
Tuesday: "I feel God's pleasure when I am running on the track at
top speed. You hit this moment when everything in your body is just
moving in sync, and it's so joyful."