Scouts and the Olympics

CITIUS – ALTIUS – FORTIUS, the Latin scholars and the Olympic fans among us would recognise these three words, faster – higher – stronger, as the motto for the modern Olympic games. These three words encourage the athlete to give his or her best during competition.

To better understand the motto, we can compare it with the Olympic creed:

The most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight;

The essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well.

Together, the Olympic motto and the creed represent an ideal that Pierre de Coubertin (founder of the current Olympic games) believed in and promoted as an important life lesson that could be gained from participation in sport and the Olympic games: that giving one’s best and striving for personal excellence was a worthwhile goal. It is a lesson that can still be applied equally today, not just to athletes but to each one of us.

In Scouting many of us can strive to achieve and live by this creed also, but, the Chief Scout of England, Bear Grylls, really brought the motto to life when he was given the honour of carrying the Olympic Torch. In true Grylls style instead of just jogging along with the torch, he zip-lined from the top of the Tyne Bridge and across the river, while carrying the Olympic Flame during the torch relay leg through Newcastle upon Tyne. Thousands of people lined the river to watch the finale of the flame’s journey through Newcastle and went crazy after Bear completed the slide from the top of the bridge’s 195 foot arch with fireworks.

“I was kind of worried about the torch going out but it stayed alight,” Grylls said afterward. “It was amazing. I was a bit nervous about rope and fire but it was fine and we are in one piece.”

The Olympic Torch has travelled through hundreds of communities during the 70-day relay and Scouts of all ages and backgrounds have been involved in the relay. Jon Sayer, a Scout volunteer from Todmorden in West Yorkshire, had the honour of carrying the Torch to the gates of Buckingham Palace where he was met by the Duchess of Cambridge.

The Duchess requested that a fellow Scout should deliver the Flame to the Palace, and Jon was nominated and chosen because of his commitment to Scouting in his local community. Jon is one of hundreds of Scouts who have carried the Torch during the Relay.

On day 63, Christopher, a 17-year-old Explorer Scout from Kent, had the honour of carrying the Torch in his home county, while Scout volunteer Joanne Gregory carried the Torch through the village of Trevor, near Wrexham in May.

Scout Leader Charles Reith joined the relay in Newburgh in June, and last weekend, 1st Ashtead Gardiner Scout Troop Leader, Malcolm McKee, carried the Torch through Barking and Dagenham. Robert, a 16-year-old Young Leader with 45th Newsome Huddersfield South West, proudly carried the Torch through Huddersfield last month.

Even Scouts who weren’t officially involved in the Olympic Torch relay managed to get up close and personal with the Torch. Rearsby Scouts got the chance to hold the Olympic flame thanks to torchbearer and swimmer Andy Banks.

Andy has Down Syndrome and is a Down Syndrome International Swimming Organisation gold-medallist, as well as a recipient of the Queen’s Scout and Gold DofE awards. He visited Thrussington Village Hall to speak to the 1st Rearsby Scouts and share the iconic Torch after he joined the Relay in Melton Mowbray on 3 July.

UK Chief Scout Bear Grylls commented on the inspirational Scout torchbearers: “I’m super proud that so many Scout Volunteers have been rewarded for the adventures they offer young people with this once in a lifetime Olympic opportunity. The Olympics is all about unity and friendship, two things that Scouting has close to its heart.”

This is not the first time that Boy Scouts were given the opportunity to join in the games. In 1948 the Boy Scouts’ services were offered to the British Olympic Committee, who readily took on this squadron of volunteers.

They were particularly useful during the opening and closing ceremonies where they performed a variety of conspicuous tasks, were used as distance markers on the marathon and 50km walk as well as running errands and conveying messages, and their skills and presence were made use of wherever possible during the Olympiad.

Scouts were required to sit at the edges of the stadium in front of the crowd during the opening ceremony, and at 4pm release a flock of 7,000 pigeons from 350 large wicker picnic baskets. Taxing as this may have been in the blazing heat it allowed them a prime view of the spectacle, and they were kept busy on tea-reconnaissance missions by the athletes seated behind them. Senior Scouts marched before each competing country holding the designation boards, placards with the each nation’s name on it, but all were a prominent part of the ceremony.

Perhaps most prominent to the overall organisation of the Games was the contribution of the Sea Scouts. These operated separately from the other Scouting divisions, and were drafted in to ensure the sailing events ran efficiently.

Arriving from all over the country, the boys were installed in the Torquay Scouts’ headquarters at a cost of 3/6d per day, and were instructed to bring only their basic personal possessions and full uniform. A crew of 200 Senior Sea Scouts were maintained throughout the sailing events, consisting of 50 local Scouts from the Torbay area and 150 from further afield.

Duties included ferrying competitors and their gear between the shore and yachts, the repairs and adjustments to the rigging of the larger craft that were needed at the end of every day, issuing weather communiqu?s, and providing spectators with a running commentary.

The Scouts were praised for their efficient and capable contribution to the Games by officials and competitors alike. One admirer described them as the oil of the Olympic wheels.

Here in Barbados the average Scout may not be given the opportunity to participate in the official Olympic games but, each one of us whether leader or boy can strive to live as the games has taught us in a spirit of unity and fellowship regardless of our backgrounds and always striving to be the best that we can be, as does the Scout Law and Promise we each have made.

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