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There’s been a lot of talk about the ‘legacy’ of the Olympics and Paralympics. Perhaps, the most important legacy centres on how we think about ourselves as human beings and treat others.

During both the Olympics and Paralympics, we witnessed amazing human qualities: sporting excellence and feats of skill, of course – and also: courage, determination, fortitude, resilience, endurance and, for all the competitive drive involved, respect for opponents.

We also witnessed something else that wasn’t expressed on water, track or field, in the glorious Velodrome or the magnificent Aquatics Centre, or any of the other places where the athletes competed: the willingness of ordinary individuals to volunteer their time and energies – and to do so, gracefully: smiling and greeting – and offering help and assistance – to thousands and thousands of visitors, from morning till night.

Who got the greatest cheer at the Olympics closing ceremony? The volunteers. Both the Olympics and Paralympics cost a huge amount of money – and if a future generation of athletes is going to be nurtured, much more money will need to be invested. But just think about the word volunteer: people choosing to give their skills and services without recompense. Up and down the country, countless charities – and synagogues, churches, mosques and temples – would be unable to function properly if it wasn’t for the contribution of volunteers.

So, when we are thinking about the legacy of the Olympics and Paralympics, let’s make sure that we cultivate a volunteering spirit as well as sporting prowess.

Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah

9th September 2012

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