We’re off this afternoon to Olympics football in Coventry, having been genuinely impressed and uplifted by Friday night’s opening ceremony. The spectacular transformation from a rural scene to the industrial revolution was brilliantly executed, and I thought it was great to see the NHS given pride of place in an event designed to showcase the achievements of modern Britain.
But the part of the evening which got me thinking most came when the competitors from all 204 teams took their time to process into the arena. I was reminded of John’s vision of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21: ‘And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honour of the nations.’
Could it be that the scenes we saw on Friday were so uplifting for us, because they point forward to something we hunger for deep down, an eventual healing of relationships as people are gathered by God in a new world free from war and violence. I realise that so much of modern sport falls short of the ideal vision many of us would wish to see realised. There’s too much money and too many egos, but there’s also a lot to celebrate, not only the individual performances of people who have trained long and hard to get to the games but the way sport unites.
Perhaps this is the reason why the more I think about it, the more astonished and offended I am about MP Aidan Burley’s now notorious tweet about "leftie multi-cultural" rubbish. The whole point of 204 nations gathering together to compete is that the games will be multi-cultural. What else but sport could bring about such a diverse and vast set of people and unite them in an atmosphere which allows a brief respite from political agendas? Let’s put our cynicism on hold for just a little while, and also look upon the games as a brief but tantalising foretaste of a longer-lasting unity God will one day usher in.