Faster, Higher, Stronger-Together in Olympics motto makeover

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Should he retain the 100m freestyle title, Kyle Chalmers will have to add some ink to his right forearm. The Australian tattooed “Citius, Altius, Fortius” after winning gold in Rio. If he wins in Tokyo, he would need to add “Communiter” (or Communis) because the Olympic motto has been given an upgrade.

On Tuesday, the motto that would translate as “Faster, Higher, Stronger” had “Together” hyphenated to it. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) went with Communiter as Latin for together, but several international news agencies used the word Communis.

“We have to adapt the motto to our times. The collaborative effort is bringing faster and better results…,” said Thomas Bach, president of IOC, in Tokyo. “This is a milestone in our development and sends a clear signal. We want to put special focus on solidarity.”

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Citius, Altius, Fortius has been the motto of the modern Olympics since the IOC was created in 1894. It was coined by Henri Didon, a friend of Pierre de Coubertin, the IOC’s French founder. “These three words represent a programme of moral beauty. The aesthetics of sport are intangible,” Coubertin said at the time.

Didon was a French preacher and educator who promoted youth sports with de Coubertin. He first coined the instantly recognisable motto in 1891, when he and Coubertin organised a youth sporting event in France.

Talking togetherness could seem at odds at a Games where isolation is part of the protocol, where fans are barred — as are hugs, high-fives and handshakes — athletes discouraged from hitting bars that open after 8pm, and the whole thing is being held in a city that is in a state of emergency.

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South Africa’s football coach David Notoane has spoken of being “on the guillotine at the moment” as he does not know how many players will be available for Thursday’s game against Japan because of positive tests and isolation cases in the squad.

But the manner in which the planet joined in the fight against Covid-19, the reorganisation needed to shift the Games by one year – a process that included but wasn’t restricted to re-booking venues and retaining the organising committee — adding the spirit of collaboration does feel right. Bach’s suggestion was made in the context of Covid-19. “Tokyo Olympics will give humanity faith in the future,” he said.

“The word ‘together’ is synonymous with our times and the need to work with solidarity. Together we can do anything,” said Indian luger Shiva Keshavan who took part in six Olympics since the 1998 Nagano Winter Games on Twitter, reacting to the change.

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Nobel prize winning economist Muhammad Yunus mentioned North and South Korea marching together during the 2018 Winter Games as another example of solidarity. “If that is not peace-making, I don’t know what it is,” he said in Tokyo on Monday. “The whole spirit of the Olympics is to get together,” said Yunus, referring to athletes from warring city-states in ancient Greece being allowed to participate in the Olympics.

At an Olympics that will, despite Covid-19 restrictions, allow nursing children with their supermom athletes, where Laurel Hubbard will become the first transgender person to take part, and another, Chelsea Wolfe, is an alternate BMX rider, where there will be nine new mixed team events and where all countries will have a man and a woman as flag-bearers, “together” does fits snugly into the 127-year-old Olympic motto.

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