The London Summer Olympics have been chock full of wondrous achievements and inspiring moments: Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Sarah Attar, Oscar Pistorius, an impressive roster of African athletes rising from deep poverty to the medal platform. Just imagine the journey from Somalia or Sudan to a stadium filled with 80,000 people, flashbulbs sparkling like stars. Amazing.
But the most inspiring, significant moment of all may still await us. On Sunday, as the sporting competition winds down and the athletes gather for the Closing Ceremony and the torch passes from London to Rio de Janeiro, another competition will be joined. It is a push to make a huge dent in hunger and childhood malnutrition before the next Opening Ceremony in Rio in 2016.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Brazil Vice President Michel Temer will host the Global Hunger Event and challenge the world’s leaders -– and all citizens, really -– to accelerate efforts to improve nutrition and reduce the rate of stunting among the planet’s poorest children in the next four years. The unofficial Olympic event -– with its Olympian ambitions -– aims to identify innovative ways to tackle malnutrition and create new champions to spur a global movement.
Hopefully, we’ll see some truly Olympian traits emerge from the Global Hunger Event. Traits like vision, dedication, ambition, urgency, momentum and focus. These should also apply to the quest for global food security; the Olympics have been unfolding against a backdrop of worsening global malnutrition, severe droughts in several parts of the world, dwindling food stockpiles and rising food prices.
Hopefully, the summit won’t be a one-off talk fest, a performance that appears every four years and then falls from view, like some of the sports that only capture our attention during the Olympics. Hopefully, the UK government can keep the focus on hunger and malnutrition through next year’s G8 meeting that it will host, and beyond. Hopefully, the Brazilians can keep hunger and malnutrition a top priority of the G20 nations. Focus, focus, focus -– the mantra of every world-class athlete.
Athletes are also all about momentum, and there has been plenty of momentum building in the fight against malnutrition. The Scaling Up Nutrition and the 1,000 Days movements, the G8’s recently launched New Alliance on Food Security and Nutrition, President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative, ONE’s THRIVE campaign and the expanding efforts of a number of humanitarian organizations to end hunger through agricultural development, the World Health Assembly’s new target to reduce the number of stunted children by 40 percent by 2025. Keep it going, don’t let up.
Finally, every Olympian -– and every Olympic Games -– desires to leave a shining legacy. One motto of London is: “Inspire a Generation.” That’s wonderful. But let’s not leave the inspiration solely in the athletic realm and the scope of individual growth and success. The Olympic Global Hunger Event can inspire a generation to achievements bigger than themselves.
Faster, higher, stronger not for one, but for all.