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Religion at the Olympics and its coverage

17 August 2012


From the Revd Nick Bromfield
Sir, - Great to see your coverage (News, 10 August) of the Christian links with the marvellous Olympics and the athletes who attributed their success to their faith. A mystery, however, is what seemed to be the resolute lack of comment by BBC commentators and pundits when the live pictures showed athletes praying or crossing themselves, having won or achieved a medal or high placing in their event.

For example, after Stephen Kiprotich won the first gold medal for Uganda in the marathon last Sunday, he knelt down on the tarmac to pray (no mean feat in itself after 26.2 miles in 80° heat) and made the sign of the cross; and yet Steve Cram and Brendan Foster made no allusion to the contribution that his faith may have made.

Similarly, when the Ethiopian Meseret Defar won the women's 5000 metres a couple of days previously, she produced a picture of the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus from her running vest and pointed at it, weeping, again giving God the glory for her victory after years of injury and frustration. This is an athlete who regularly donates her prize money to international children's charities. It was very clear where her inspiration had come from, but, once again, no mention of her Christian faith was given.

The most disappointing omission of all, however, was when the three Jamaican 200-metres runners, led by Usain Bolt, won a clean sweep of medals in that race, after which they each gave thanks to God for their win and attributed their success to God - albeit with a passing appreciation of Johnny English. Once more, not even a passing reference by the BBC crew.

In all the concern about Olympic legacy and Boris Johnson's enthusiasm for a compulsory two hours of competitive games each day at school, perhaps Lord Coe could begin by looking at the part played by the Christian faith in determining athletic success?

The Rectory, Oakland Road
Harrow Hill, Drybrook
Gloucestershire GL17 9JX

From Canon Paul Denyer
Sir, - Am I alone in thinking John Lennon's "Imagine" is exactly the wrong thing to be sung at the culmination of the Olympics?

I am not anti-Olympics. I think it has been a marvellous example of how faith, hope, and charity can triumph over cynicism and low national self-esteem; but to imagine a world without countries and religion is a sentimental fantasy.

I am surprised we weren't treated to a choir of athletes singing "I did it my way".

Warmley Vicarage
Church Avenue
Bristol BS30 5JJ

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