Jackie Gingrich Cushman

I'm ready for the Olympic Games, ready to watch the best athletes in the world giving it all they have. I'm ready to be inspired.

After a long Republican presidential primary soap opera, continuing mediocre economic news, ongoing information on the Greek crisis, the current silliness of the presidential campaign quips of the day, and last week's tragedy in Aurora, Colo., Americans are in desperate need of inspiration.

Thank goodness it's time for the Olympic Games.

The ancient Olympic Games, held in Athens, Greece, were held from approximately 776 B.C. to 400 A.D. During the games, there would be a truce between warring parties and any free man could compete in the competition of his choice. Events then were focused on physical prowess and fighting skills. As the Roman Empire grew in power and influence, the Olympic Games ceased.

For centuries, the world went without a global athletic competition.

In the late 1800s, Pierre de Coubertin began to focus on the importance of athleticism in education. As a young man in France during the Franco-Prussian war, Coubertin blamed the defeat of the French on their lack of physical prowess. Noting during a visit to England that "organized sport can create moral and social strength," Coubertin was a champion of incorporating physical education in schools. This passion led him to champion the creation of the modern Olympic Games.

Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee in 1894, and the first modern Olympic Games were held in the Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens, Greece, in 1896. At that time, 241 athletes from 14 nations participated in 43 events. At this year's summer Olympic Games, in London, England, more than 10,000 athletes will participate from 204 National Olympic Committees.

More than 6 billion people will watch the opening ceremony via broadcast. It will truly be a worldwide event.

The Olympics represent the best in athletics, but it is the stories of the athletes that attract us: those who have overcome obstacles, stayed focused, persevered and won. Even those who don't win -- but who give their performance their all -- capture our hearts.

They represent to those of us who are average, the ability to be more -- to do more -- and they give us hope that, one day, we, too, might give something our all.

Coubertin understood that the Olympics, like life, are about more than winning. "The important thing in life is not victory, but the fight; the main thing is not to have won," said Coubertin, "but to have fought well."


Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.