I’m a swimmer. I may not know everything about winter sports and I probably know even less about how to dress for winter climates. However, I do know what it takes to be an elite athlete. I know what it’s like to share your dreams with others, only to have them laugh at you because they don’t believe what you believe. I know what it’s like to have doubt creep up inside you and cast a shadow over your dreams. I know what it’s like to face the internal pressures you put on yourself to accomplish your dreams. I know what it’s like to face the external pressures others put on you to accomplish their dreams. I know what it’s like to fail. I also know what it’s like to win. When you win, you forget about all the negative comments, the doubts and the pressures you faced because in that moment your dream has become a reality.
I am in Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). This is my first Games experience as an IOC member and being part of the work and commitment that the members and staff put into this, is phenomenal. As part of the IOC Athletes Commission we help guide and ensure the IOC give the Athletes the greatest Games experience.
Sochi provides some wonderful firsts:
These 1st time occurrences reflect IOC President Thomas Bach’s motto, ‘Unity in Diversity’. This diversity is bringing more and more people of different nations, cultures, religions, genders, races, languages and backgrounds together for 1 purpose: Sport. I have many dreams, one of them being the hope that you will one day get to experience a World that reflects the Olympic Games. A World where we can support each other, compete with each other, compete against each other and at the same time, live together in peace and in harmony. There will be about 85 countries being represented by their athletes and all living, eating and competing together without discrimination, fighting or hate. That is unique in our world today, but not impossible.
On 6th February I was honoured to carry the Olympic Torch for the first time. People lined the streets: babies in prams; children on their parents shoulders; school children singing… fueling excitement into the atmosphere in adoration of their athletes. This was surreal because for that singular moment I was doing something no one else in the world was doing. I wasn’t just carrying my nations Flag, or only representing Africa and women around the world, I was representing humankind by linking thousands of others in carrying a message of peace.