TEDxMileHigh – Jeff Olson – An Olympic Why

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /

Translator: Alina Siluyanova
Reviewer: Denise RQ If you look into ideas
that are worth spreading and look at the stories behind them, you find people
with magnificent obsessions. You find people with brave hearts,
vision, and purpose. They go to work and get things done,
we’ve heard some of them tonight. I’m awestruck by Paul,
and by Bernard, and what they do. The Modern Olympic Movement
was founded by a small old Frenchman by the name of Pierre de Coubertin. And the evolution of his ideas
started out innocently enough with an inquiry into how to improve
children’s education in France. He was intrigued
by what the British were doing using competitive play and sport
to invigorate their youth filling them up with capacity
to send them out into the world faster, higher, and stronger. He also studied the Ancient Greek culture and how they embraced and celebrated
a virtue called “areté”. And what “areté” is translated
it is “excellence” inside you, that is bound
by the fulfillment of a purpose, living up to your full potential, a virtue that is embodying
being the best that you can be. So he took new ideas and he forged them
with ancient old ideas into a fresh idea that became an idea worth spreading, worth doing, worth repeating
for the last 115 years. And from the very beginning, he always believed that sport
was a curriculum and a tool for higher means and higher regard. And I’m a living proof of that:
I met my wife at the Olympics and we have 3 daughters, so you can say
it’s an eternal legacy for our family. But in any event, he also believed
that competitive play and sport brought out the best in us,
brought our areté. The whole American narrative,
free, fair, open competition, is our economic story, it is what has made
the American competitive greatness. In some way, shape, or form
– this is a very self-actualized audience- we are all athletes out there
in the game of life trying to elevate
our contribution to the team. In his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama challenged us as a nation
to go win the future. And he said we need to out educate,
we need to out innovate, and we need to out build
our global competitors. Last several years has given us
pause though all over into American “what” and American “how” as we dig deeper into the “whys”
and why we do what we do. We’re still the richest nation
on earth by far, but we’re understanding
this big distinction between success and fulfillment. As a 20th century athlete,
America was the superstar of success, and in the 21st century, we’re still trying to get our mojo back
and find that areté and that meaning. Obama said,
“This is our ‘Sputnik moment’.” And what Sputnik was
it was the first Earth-orbiting satellite put into the space in 1957
by the Russians, our competitor. It was a competitive challenge
which activated the whole several decades
worth of innovation in all kinds of different ways. Obama’s reference to it,
and what it represented – it is a historical reference, but what it means for all of us
when you hear “Sputnik moment” – it basically is a challenge
to you to get your game on. Every athlete knows
that to compete at the highest level you got to be healthy,
and you got to be fit. This is an ad that could’ve appeared
last week as a public service ad, 10 years ago, 20 years ago. This was 50 years ago,
this was put out in 1960. Then president-elect Kennedy
wrote an article in Sports Illustrated, and it was a referenced
in a 15-year study that showed the decline
of American youth and in their fitness – it’s called “The soft American” – and in it he referenced
how the Greeks prized physical fitness and he understood it
as a prime foundation to a vigorous state. And he said,
“To realize our full potential, we need to know what the Greeks know: that hardy spirits and tough minds resign within a sound body
that is healthy, fit, and strong.” We cannot let this generation
grow up to be spectators. This is a new frontier, and we got to get our kids healthier. The unfortunate thing
is we didn’t really hear Kennedy’s call, and welcome to death, disease. We’ve heard a lot of this,
we know about this. 7 out of 10 people die in this country
because of lifestyle related diseases, diseases that are attached
to your behavior. We eat too much. What do we eat?
What kinds of things do we eat? We’ll probably talk about that. We need to move more.
Do we smoke? Do we drink? And in this world of abundance,
how do we manage this mentally and deal with the stress
and the biochemistry that that creates. These are diseases of a modern era. And we’ve passed
this torch on to our kids. Born in the USA now means that you have a shorter life expectancy
than your parents. One of two of our kids,
your kids, my kids, are going to get heart disease,
1 in 2.5 – cancer, 1 in 3 – diabetes. And it gets worse,
and the stats keep compounding. Obesity, asthma, allergies, ADD, their trend lines are like this,
and they’re going up. These are the top 10 drugs
that we bought in 2007, under the underlying physical conditions
that those top 10 drugs address and try to band-aid
not addressing root causes at all, all these attached behavior and lifestyle,
things that we do. In 2010 alone, the top 20 drugs:
we spent 130 billion dollars, and they were virtually
all lifestyle related diseases. We’re hemorrhaging
our economic prosperity. This was a stunning economic forecast
put out by The Milken Institute. And what they did was they grew GDP out
over the next 40 years to 2050, Gross Domestic Product, with health care growing out
at the same rate with some modest improvements
in the intervention of disease. And then they played “what if”. They said, “What if we actually
chose to stand up and win the future, and invest in [health] care
and invest in the ROI of prevention? What would that economy look like?” And they looked at the differential
between those two forecasts. I want you to imagine in your mind
the accumulative net effect that The Milken Institute came up
out over the next 40 years. I want to put that number in your mind. And it’s going to blow you away,
when I put up this number. A 100 trillion dollars of lost economic
prosperity, lost economic output. And for those of you who think
that those people with diseases and those people who are unhealthy
choose that lifestyle, and that’s not me, understand that the economics of it all
connect us all. We become the poster child
for a lifestyle of excess, and we’re realizing
sort of the economic triage of it all. And it’s become malignant,
and it’s factoring out all over the world. You heard a lot about infectious diseases
from the bottom five billion. Well, as it turns out,
60% of all disease and death in the world happens from lifestyle related diseases. And the epic, global myth in public health is that these are diseases of affluence,
developed countries. Turns out, 80% of all death in our world occurs in urban communities,
in ethnic communities that have middle income,
low income, poor income. So, what are we supposed to do? Where are we supposed to go
when we fundamentally need as a nation, as a country,
now, which is in an urban world? Where are we supposed to go when we need a cultural transformation,
a lifestyle transformation? About four, five years ago, I was speaking
at the National Mensa Conference. And for those of you
who don’t know what Mensa is, your IQ has to be in the top 2%
in the world to be a part of this society. Rest assured, I’m not a member. (Laughter) I knew a physician who was, I got the gig, the title of my talk I was very proud of. I was talking about health and vitality. The title of my talk was “Duh”.
Very proud of that. (Laughter) Take away from that, I got to tell you,
it was a twilight zone experience because this audience
had the intellectual horse power, but they were probably
the most unhealthy audience that I’ve ever spoken to. They had the knowledge intellectually,
and what the takeaway was is health in the modern era,
health in the 21st century is a learned skill,
it is an adaptive trait, it is an acquired doing, and we have to train that
over time into habit. Intel, healthy active lifestyle
in the literacy found and doing that in the modern era, is placed on par
with reading, writing, and arithmetic in our public school system. We’re going to be forever disabling
the next generation at best, and at worst, we’re just going to be rearranging
the deck chairs on our Titanic. (Applause) Translated, that’s putting
health and fitness class back in the public education,
K through 12, five days a week. (Applause) Because we know
what the Greeks know, right? We can’t push rope on this though, because this has to be
a cultural mandate, we have to make it so. The spinal tap into the kids’ “why”
is culture, it’s pop culture. Pop culture has got
to get involved in this. We’ve got to romance children
into healthy lifestyle and vigor, it’s got to be attractive, it’s got to be cool and hip
in the way we roll as a society. Here is what culture does: culture takes and trains habit
into existence unconsciously. And that’s what we need. Melinda Gates spoke to this
in her TED Talk when she said, “We need to look to the levers of culture
to transform public health.” America needs cultural leadership, we need functional vocational training
every day with kids to develop that habit. Competition is not going to wait for us. Faster competition, stronger competition,
higher competition. There are two kinds of competition: there is competition
that beats you down and breaks you up, and there is competition
that brings you to life, brings up the best in you,
and there is a joy found in that effort. You know the Olympic Movement,
“Citius, fortius, altius”, it’s the motto of the Olympic Games, “Faster, higher, stronger”, an organization for 115 years
that was created out of one thing: to use sport to build
a peaceful and better world, to put sport at the service of humanity, to use it as a tool to go do something
using competitive play. I want to give you a case study
of what I think is the finest execution of a host nation taking on these games, being the Stewart of that mission
in a clearly defined way. Lillehammer hosted
the 1994 Winter Olympic Games, and about a decade prior they set off
trying to find their own Olympic “why”. And they studied their culture,
they looked at their people, and what was resonating,
sacred, and of high value to them, was the environment. And what they did with the environment
is they made it their areté, they made it their reason for being. And they imbedded it
into the procurement, the planning, the philosophy, the narrative,
the decision making in the Olympic Games, and they hosted the first ever
Environmental Games. And it stands as a legacy today. Henceforth, every city
that is bidding on the Olympic Games has to submit an entire chapter
that is their environmental plan. They put environment
into the Olympic Movement. You think America
could do something like that if it decided to get back in the game, to take on something
that is of importance to us as a nation, important to the world, and use sport as a tool
to go do something, to carry a torch in a brighter way,
which is the Olympic Movement, the reason for being a brighter
movement to the Olympic movement? America finds itself trying
to sort of get its game back, trying to find its groove. The hardest thing for an athlete to do
is maintain that level of competitiveness, to tap into that level of desire. Dan Jansen was an American speed skater who was the gold medal favorite
at two separate Olympic Games. And he fell, back to back,
in two separate games, and when he came to the third Olympics,
he won a gold medal. This is what champions do, they persevere. Within the next year,
America has got to decide if it’s going to get
into the race for 2022. The United States Olympic Committee
has to make that decision. And then they got to pick a city,
and a partner, and a winning horse that they think can win. 2013 – the race begins,
2015 – the city is selected. So, it’s on, make no mistake, it’s on. There is an effort under way in this town
to carry the torch for 2015. (Applause) What if we, as Americans,
could do the same thing that Norway did with the environment? What if we chose
to steward health into our country, to steward health
into the Olympic Movement? Can you think of a city that carries
a healthy lifestyle and sport? Can you think of a city
that embodies vigor and vitality? Can you think of a city
that could walk the talk through 2022 and beyond and show the world
how to roll in this conversation, and how to become a cultural mandate
for us as a community? Bidding on the Olympic Games
is what great cities do, it’s what great countries do. If we’re to have a good fortune
to be selected as America’s choice, what if we used that
as our “Sputnik moment”? What if it galvanized our areté
as a community? And our willing resolved to activate sport
for a healthier generation, to put sport
at the service of the humanity, and train up the whole generation
in our backyard, what if we became
the first state, the first community to reverse the trends
of childhood obesity, to reverse the trends of chronic disease? We would be the first city. That’s like breaking
the four-minute mile in public health. A lot of people say,
it’s going to take a miracle for all those pieces to come together. Look, the miracle on ice
was not a miracle, OK? It was an execution in team around
a mission, and a goal, and a vision. I got your back, OK? What is your areté?
What is you led-Olympic moment? What is your live areté? I believe that elevating sport
for a healthier generation is an idea worth spreading, a game worth playing,
and a race worth winning. It’s my obsession, but I need
your help to make it magnificent. So, with that, team Mile High, if you’re looking for
a pick-up game to play and your seat is to sit on the sideline, you got to get on the court,
because it’s game on. Thank you. (Applause)

8 thoughts on “TEDxMileHigh – Jeff Olson – An Olympic Why

  1. JO – that is awesome – you are just as great a public speaker as you were as a multi-time Olympian. Good for you, we are proud of you!
    –Rusty Squire

  2. So is Denver organizing again for 2022? But how do you counter the negativity of Denver's actions in 1972-giving back the Games to the IOC after winning it? How do you counter that Loss of Face for the IOC that you handed them? How do you erase that stigma going into the contest? How do you remove that huge millstone on your neck-when YOU KNOW the rival bids will not let it die down? How do you ask forgiveness from the IOC and ask to be treated like a fresh bid? They have long memories.

  3. I hope that USA understands that Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who will take a step in this direction.

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