How Science and the Olympics Can Learn From Each Other
Every four years, the countries of the world meet to discover whose citizens can run faster, jump higher and otherwise surpass those of other nations in a wide range of athletic and sporting activities. At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, medals will be won, records will be broken, achievements will be celebrated — and close eyes will be kept on tables showing which countries have outperformed their rivals.
Inevitably, the competitive spirit will dominate. In this, the games act as a giant metaphor for the global economy, in which competition is lauded as a driving force that will ensure a general rise in standards, even among those who aspire to — but do not necessarily reach — the highest levels of achievement. But behind this there is a less celebrated aspect. The games also represent an achievement in cooperation, both at a national and international level. In team sports, cooperation among team members is obviously essential. And at the Olympics, countries put aside (most of) their political differences and demonstrate a common commitment to a system from which, at the end of the day, all participants should benefit.