British double olympic gold medal winner Mo Farah (R), Former Brazilian footballer Pele, (L) Vice-President of Brazil Michel Temer, (2nd L) and British Prime Minister David Cameron (2nd R) outside 10 Downing Street in London.
In any year, the Olympic Games are full of symbolism. From the five multi-colored rings to the ceremonial lighting of the torch, the Games have a way of briefly unifying the world through the universality of sports.
As the 2012 Games came to a close Sunday, instead of cooling his heels and patting himself on a job well done, British Prime Minister David Cameron began what may be the Olympics’ next tradition, using the global attention to raise the profile of a very serious world issue with the aim pointed squarely at its eradication.
This year, hunger was on the menu.
"While people around the planet have been enjoying and competing in these Games, there's another world where children don't have enough to eat and never get the start in life they deserve," Cameron said according to the Associated Press. "We've a responsibility to tackle this."
Cameron and Brazilian Vice President Michel Temer held a summit Sunday, attended by athletes, business leaders, NGOs and foreign dignitaries all in the name of feeding the world's hungry. The summit produced some very nice photos of Cameron and Temer, and there were also many nice pledges made from U.K. companies like Unilever, Syngenta and GSK promising to make nutritious food available to poor families around the world at affordable prices. India even promised to move around its budget to accommodate vague measures that would ensure the health and nutrition of 100 million women and children.
But as we all know all too well, the promises of summits can often be like the cherished Olympic torch itself. Gazed upon for a moment with awe and then quickly extinguished and even sooner forgotten.
Statements by two of the Games’ most celebrated sprinters, both hailing from famine racked nations in the Horn of Africa, can attest to the staying power of international pledges on hunger eradication.
“I'm lucky to have set up a new life here, and growing up here, after being in Somalia as a little boy," Somali-born British gold-medalist Mo Farah said. "But there are kids out there facing hunger and starvation and we've got to do something about it.”
Sprinter Haile Gebrselassie, a veteran British gold medalist hailing from Ethiopia, also lauded the talks, citing Ethiopia’s win of three gold medals in London and contrasting the wins with the country’s ongoing hunger problems, saying, "just imagine what my country could have achieved if half of our children weren't suffering from malnutrition."
While Farah and Gebrselassie’s comments were meant to bolster support for the summit, reading their individual tales of their country’s hunger hardships makes it hard to believe that Cameron’s summit was different from this one or this one or this one. Each year, people are still going hungry needlessly, their ability to feed themselves and their families crippled by drought, famine and deleterious economic policies.
However, from the myriad talks, we can take away a piece of the inherent symbolism and allow it to give us a glimpse of what the world would be like if we were all properly housed and fed and our leaders and policy-makers cooperated as politely as the athletes who, for a moment, shared the world stage.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/GettyImages)