|▲ Jose Diaz, center, Delphic Games public relations coordinator, poses recently with the Jeju African dancers. Photo courtesy Jose Diaz
Few people will be as proud as Jose Diaz to see years of hard work come to fruition, as the Delphic Games open Sept. 9 on Jeju Island.
Since Jeju was chosen to be the host of the third Delphic Games of the modern era in 2007, Diaz has been at the forefront of the work to make a success of these games. As the Delphic head of public relations he feels Jeju is to be a witness to something great.
“The games began as the Pythian Games, in honor of the python killed by Apollo to start the inaugural games in the sixth century BC. We are looking to produce a game that is worthy of this historical lineage,” Diaz said.
The games were preceded by the announcement of the Holy Delphic Peace, during which time participants and spectators were guaranteed peace and safety throughout the Hellenic lands, and this spirit has continued into the modern era. Diaz feels a close affinity to these ideals.
“I also come from an island nation, the Canary Islands, and our history of conflict has built in me a desire to see peace for all people, no matter how big or small. We are both island people whose rich cultures have been threatened by other cultures, so this is a chance to celebrate our wealth and traditions,” he said.
His international experience, stretching from the Netherlands (?) to the Pacific Islands, means Diaz, a true global citizen, has developed an understanding of many people and cultures and he feels this is what the Delphic Games is all about.
“I see the Delphic Games as a celebration of our humanity and spirituality through the arts. We want to see the arts represented as a way of bringing people together. Jeju has had hard times in the past, but we can use these games as a way of experiencing understanding between cultures, to help strengthen the Jeju people and culture in a global era,” he said.
Diaz believes the Delphic Games can also help bridge the gap between the traditional and the modern through a celebration of culture.
“The games represent the desire to enthrall through the arts. Competition is a human necessity, but Delphic see it as more as a performance and cultural exchange,” he said. “In our age of rapid change, there is the danger we lose our values and traditions, but festivals such as this provide a bridge between the past and the present. Without knowing where we come from, we will never be able to know with self-confidence and innovation where we are going.”
It seems if Jeju wants to truly be at the forefront of Korea’s appropriation of a global identity it must above all respect the local tradition and culture which make the island so rich. Respect and tradition are words that are never far from Diaz’s lips and he feels Jeju is moving in the right direction.
“There is certainly a warmth about Jeju people and it comes from their strong local identity and distinctiveness. I’m also an island person, so I want to extend that welcome to all who visit the Delphic Games. Together we can make it a success,” he said.
Despite distances, the island experience means the Canary Islands and Jeju can come together in a unique partnership. This ability to look beyond the surface at deeper meanings is what being a global citizen is all about and thanks to Diaz and his team the Delphic Games will let us delve into the global games with lessons for us all.