Sharing the Olympic Dream

The struggle to achieve personal dreams and goals is a universal one whether you are in London, Darfur or Washington D.C.

This week thousands of athletes are in London with hopes of gold.  For these men and women the Olympics is a culmination of years of tough training, painful injuries, and dogged perseverance.  We will cheer on our teams.  Celebrate their victories.  Share their defeats.

Just as these athletes push themselves to the limit, breaking records and setting new standards, others around the world will also be struggling to achieve their own dreams.

In February 2009, I sat with tribal leaders on the hard red soil of the Zam Zam displaced persons camp in El Fasher, northern Darfur.  As we talked, the conversation shifted from pressing immediate needs—security, food, water and shelter—to a discussion about their future. How would they educate their children? How would they get jobs?  How would they build communities that were more resilient to climate, economic and other political shocks?  How would they establish a better future for their families and friends? 

In the poorest corners of the world, people strive not simply to survive, but also to thrive.  Struggles over adversity, whether as an Olympic athlete or a former child soldier in Sudan, or possibly both as in the case of Sudanese-born American field and track star Lopez Lomong—unite us in our human experience.

During the Olympics, I’ll be watching like everyone else but it’s important to also keep a spotlight on those whose struggles are less in the public eye.

Over the next two weeks, members of the InterAction alliance—a group of more than 190 U.S.-based international NGOs —will publish stories on the Huffington Post from people around the world who use sports as a tool to build back communities, tackle health problems, fight discrimination against those with disabilities or press for gender equality.  One gripping blog tells the story of how sports are being used to boost emotional wellbeing in refugee camps in Lebanon.  There are also stories from a running shoe company and from an athlete who is competing in the London Special Olympics.

As the Olympic Games wind down and the athletes pack their bags to go home, British Prime Minister David Cameron plans to hold a “Hunger Summit” in London on the sidelines of the sporting extravaganza. I hope this international meeting will shine a light on what the world needs to do in order for everyone to be free to pursue their dreams.

Currently, nearly 1 billion people face chronic hunger, and an estimated 3.5 million children die of malnutrition every year. The Hunger Summit was announced in May after leaders of the Group of G8 nations – the world’s richest and most powerful club – created a New Alliance on Food Security and Nutrition.  The alliance aims to raise 50 million people out of poverty over the next decade.  Hopefully, leaders attending the London summit in August will set out more specific plans on how to reach those targets, which are attainable if everyone plays their part.

As I watch the Olympic Games, I will remember my meeting in the Zam Zam camp and will continue to root for them realizing their dreams. Just as I will for Team USA.

This blog is part of a series organized by The Huffington Post and the NGO alliance InterAction around the London 2012 Olympics.  Join the conversation on tweeter using #London2012 and #ImpactSports.