The way Olympic athletes are sometimes portrayed, spectators could be forgiven for believing that sports is their religion and the body is their god.
But the fact that Olympics organizers have established a special area for religious services in the Olympic and Paralympic Village in Rio de Janeiro is evidence that many athletes definitely believe in a Higher Power.
As the world tunes in to television broadcasts of a spectacular opening ceremony for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio Friday night, a much quieter venue will be seeing simpler, reverent liturgies every day until September 21. According to the Deseret News, an “interreligious center” will offer spiritual and religious support for athletes of a variety of faiths, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism.
These religions were chosen based on the faith composition of the athletes slated to compete in the Olympic Games, the newspaper said.
Each of the five religious traditions will have a permanent worship space that can accommodate up to 50 people, with four Catholic chaplains and four Protestant chaplains serving at the center; the other faith traditions will also have four representatives each, according to the Olympic website.
More than 10,000 athletes from 205 nations are expected to compete in 306 medal events.
“Our job is to provide athletes with a place where they can find comfort and spiritual peace, whatever their religion,” Father Leandro Lenin, a Catholic priest who is coordinating the effort, said in a statement. “We are a symbol of peace, brotherhood and the unity of peoples.”
In addition to efforts to unify athletes, the center will also offer opportunities for group worship as well as individual counseling, Catholic News Service reported.
“We all believe in dialogue and brotherhood between religions,” Father Lenin said.
“We hope to offer this balance between the physical and the spiritual,” said Rabbi Elia Haber, who is also involved in the project. “It is really important for the athletes to work on that.”