Higher faster further. The Olympic motto is attractive and inherent in being human. The pursuit of excellence should be limitless, it forms the basis for things that seem unimaginable and yet can be accomplished. And yet: the motto has steered sport down the wrong path.
The hunt for records, especially in the core Olympic sports of track and field and swimming, is the focus. Everything else, especially the athletes, not so much. Higher, faster, further has dehumanized the sport, made it mechanical.
The former sprint world record holder Michael Johnson has now drawn attention to this. He calls for more appreciation for the athletes themselves and less for the number on the scoreboard that pops up when they finish. In fact, there are impressive figures in athletics that hardly anyone knows, at least in this country.
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has already won eight Olympic medals, three of them gold. She obviously lacks records for international fame, such as those held by Florence Griffith-Joyner for over 30 years. The American was only 38 years old and to this day the rumor persists that her early death was due to uninhibited doping.
The attraction of doing superhuman things is great and it can be profitable. But it can also develop destructive powers. A week before the start of the World Championships in Athletics in Eugene, a former world record holder said that it shouldn’t always be about the times. But about the athletes.