Olympics 2012 : More than Gold...

2012-03-07 Vatican Radio

The Olympic rings are now visible on a barge on the River Thames, a sure sign the London Games are but a few months away.

Monsignor John Armitage is Chair of the Catholic 2012 Committee as well as Catholic trustee on the board of the Olympic Charity "More than Gold" . He recently dropped by Vatican Radio's studios to be interviewed by Veronica Scarisbrick.

As Monsignor Armitage explained on this occasion "More than Gold" is not specifically Catholic, rather it brings together a coalition of Christian Churches and groups: " ...the Olympic organisers very clearly said they can't work with each individual denomination or Church group. So they asked right at the beginning that there should be a group that works together. So we had this coalition which has been very effective. And that's got a number of programmes that we're all working on, involved in social justice , in hospitality, in mission teams and a whole range of different things, special events where we can work together..we're encouraging Churches to get a screen and run a social event around it..."

Other areas of interest being encouraged by "More than Gold", Monsignor Armitage says, regard the question of engaging young people in the event as well as volunteers.

Another area the Church is involved in, as part of this same umbrella project, goes by the name of "Games Pastors" and provides welcoming of athletes at both Heathrow and Gatwick airports as well as at major London Rail Terminals.

But beyond the ecumenical slant to the venture Monsignor Armitage also highlights how the Catholic Church is involved in the Games through a number of projects.

Among these is one which offers a twenty four hour chaplaincy service both for the athletes and the officials. Currently 20 among priests and religious sisters have asked for accreditation with access to the Olympic village providing two or three masses a day in diffferent languages .

In this programme, Veronica Scarisbrick latches on to Monsignor Armitage's mention of Pope Benedict XVI inaugurating, at Saint Mary's Twickenham, the Sports Foundation named in honour of Pope John Paul II in view of the forthcoming Olympic Games during his visit to Britain.

By adding to the interview a recording in which the future Blessed John Paul II speaks of the power of sports to unite, to bring people together: " ... competition between athletes is a universal language which immediately goes beyond the frontiers of nation, race and political persuasion. All of this on condition that the men and women who engage in sport , especially on the international level, foster its inherent positive values without allowing it to degenerate through excessive concern for mere material advantages or through a new subordination to partisan ideologies."