This afternoon at Wembley Stadium the representative of Great Britain will take the Olympic Oath on behalf of 6,000 competitors before a great assembly, saying "We swear that we will take part in the Olympic Games in loyal competition, respecting the regulations which govern them and desirous of participating in them in the true spirit of sportmanship for the honour of our country and the glory of the sport."
If the Games are to be a success in the sense conceived by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern series, then not only must every competitor observe that oath, but also every spectator and every commentator over the wireless or in the newspaper. For to such a pitch of unreasoning nationalism have men come in these days that often both spectators and commentators at big international sporting contests seem to have forgotten the great truth which Coubertin recognised and which to-day will be emblazoned in the arena - that the important thing is not so much winning as taking part, not so much conquering as fighting well.
Coubertin hoped for the spread of chivalry and the strengthening of peace through mutual understanding and respect. Even if million-dollar contracts could be secured by Britain if her John Doe won the Olympic 1,500 meters, they would not in the long run be more desirable than the respect which may be gained even in a sordid world by a solid fortnight of efficient and fair administration and by our crowds' chivalrous appreciation of the efforts and gallantry of others.
Much that has happened on our sports grounds since the war makes one nervous of how this country will emerge from the test. During the football season several Association grounds were closed because of spectators' bad behaviour, and some Rugby Union crowds were not much better. A great American golfer on his return home after competing in the British open championships remarked how the galleries as well as the payers seemed to resent Americans. Even the centre court at Wimbeldon produced a regrettable outburst of partisanship in one of the finals.
With the approach of the Olympic Game, some writers have been only too ready to exploit minor disagreements. Yet are British spectators in fact less chivalrous than they were a few years ago? Many may be tired after war and resettlement, irritated by restrictions or disappointed by the slowness of national recovery. But if we show these feelings we only make bad ten times worse. That way lie madness and chaos; that way, too, we shall achieve the final destruction of the whole purpose of the modern Olympic Games, for it was in the British and American way of sport, as he saw it, that Coubertin saw hope for the gradual education of a world at peace. Britain asked for the honour of staging this year's Olympic Games. She must not prove unworthy of it.