Blog - Brendan Sexton at the birth place of the Modern Olympics
26 June 2018
OLYMPISM IN ACTION: London 2012 Triathlon Olympian Brendan Sexton is in Greece for the annual International Olympic Academy's International Session for Young Participants to celebrate the Olympic Movement. Participants in the forum will discover the history of the Olympic Movement, learn Olympic values, see the great significance they can have in today’s society and share their Olympic journeys. Read Sexton's blog on his experience at the session below:
IOA Session - Athens & Olympia, Greece
The International Olympic Academy 57th International Session for Young Participants is a gathering of a mix of young people who are in some way involved in the sphere of using sport as a way of improving people's lives. The Academy itself is involved in the philosophical side of the Olympic movement - specifically Olympism, the philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind.
The 57th session is being held in Greece, predominantly in Ancient Olympia where the original ancient Games were held for centuries starting in 776BC and where the physical location of the IOA now resides. Before heading to the IOA, I first met up with the other 180 participants, coordinators, and staff in Athens for a traditional opening ceremony. I also met my fellow Aussie rep Sarah Cook, an Olympic rower turned sailor and all round champ now doing all sorts of good things in the Aussie sports world. The day after the ceremony I joined all participants visiting the tourist sites of Athens including the Stadium, museums and the famous Acropolis. Day 2 was travel day not without stacks more cultural experience with a detour via Dephi - another mind blowing site of Ancient Greece where the Delphic Games were held and, of course, where the infamous Oracle once gave her prophecies. After a big day of travel and touristing we arrived at the IOA proper - a beautiful green complex of lecture rooms, playing courts and fields and dormitories on a hill side surrounded by olive groves.
Day 1 on IOA we were put to work. Much of the activities were designed to give all the participants a chance to interact and get to know each other as well as begin the dialogue around this year's session subject: "Olympic athletes as role models." The people involved in the session come from all corners of the globe and represent a huge spectrum of cultures. The participants' roles in their home nations range from sports administration, sports media, athletes, coaches, students and sports development officials. We quickly got used to a routine that involved a morning of lectures from various experts, afternoon group discussions on the subjects presented and evening activities of either playing different sport or partaking in cultural performances.
In the morning I have been listening to lectures with a focal point of the sessions subject. I experienced presentations from an archeologist, philosopher, social scientist, professor of antiquity, and Olympic medalists Barry Maister ONZM and Kipchoge Keino, who after their sporting career, went on to make huge positive community change in both their home environments and internationally. A particularly interesting presentation by professor Dr Cesar Torres about the role model debate, Olympism and education was a thought provoking hour I happily experienced.
After lectures the group broke up into smaller discussions. The group of 12 that I belonged to included representatives from Canada, Cape Verde, Korea, Serbia and San Marino among others. In discussion we talked about the lectures and from the conversation developed questions and accompanying answers on the subjects with the aim to present our conclusions with the bigger group. One such question my group went about answering was, "how can coaches prepare and support athletes to be positive role models?"
After discussion there would be a mix of free time, team sports competition and cultural performances by participants.
Day 4 included a trip to the site of the original ancient games. Ruins and relics of the primitive stadium, hippodrome, temples, alters and other buildings that were used for centuries lie a stones throw from the IOA. Another excursion on day 4 took us to the coast and a local typically beautiful Greek Mediterranean beach.
As an Olympian I was asked to speak about my Olympic journey. On day 5 I presented a short story about my experience starting triathlon as a teenager, training and competing, disappointment in my performance at the London Games and finding satisfaction now in my role as a coach. The other 14 Olympians also shared their stories which were as varied as the nations represented here.
In these final few days the lectures and discussions will continue, celebration for Olympic Day will happen, more sporting competition and performances before heading back to Athens and the closing ceremony. Should the days be as interesting and jam packed as the first week I won't be disappointed or idle!