With the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony beginning this evening in East London, several religions will be flocking to the international athletic event to spread their message of faith to all those willing to listen. One such group is the controversial Church of Scientology.
A leaked letter published on the blog of Mark "Marty" Rathbun, a high-profile Scientology defector, details the organization's plans to distribute texts to Olympic spectators in an attempt to spread their ideology.
The letter indicates that Scientologists will be handing out the text "The Way to Happiness," written by the organization's founder, L. Ron Hubbard.
"As I am sure you will agree, this has massive potential to reach a truly international audience!" writes Patrick Howson, mail order manager for Bridge Publications, which publishes Hubbard's texts.
"Staff and public volunteers are being mobilized right now and will be in prominent locations around the Olympic events passing out 'The Way to Happiness' to everyone!" he said, requesting donations so that more copies of the book can be delivered to London.
"The target is to distribute a minimum of 2 million copies!" he added.
In addition to the Church of Scientology's presences, Christian groups will also be present at the Summer Games to spread the Good News.
Athletes In Action (AIA), a Christian ministry catering to athletes, has also announced its plans to evangelize at the Olympics.
On the AIA website, the organization explains its plans to dispatch 160 evangelizing Christians at the Games in the hopes of reaching 10,000 athletes.
"The project involves serving and reaching Olympians through the 11 AIA chaplains (out of 35 total Protestant chaplains) at the Olympic and Paralympic Village, as well as a training and outreach project Aug. 3-13 called 'London Eternal Triumph.' All total, AIA will have 160 people on the ground at the Games," the organization wrote on its website.
Similarly, Grace2London, a self-described "Reformed Evangelical group of churches," is specifically interested in reaching out to those attending the 2012 Olympic Games.
"Our Grace has been provided by God, a great kindness we don't deserve. There is nothing we have done, nor can ever do to earn this favor. It is a gift from God. Grace is the divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration (rebirth) from their disobedience to a state of the eternal legacy of being with God. It is this Grace we wish to share with others," the organization shared as its reason for evangelizing at the Summer Games.
Evangelism at the Olympics does receive some amount of criticism, as many believe the Games should be a time of simply enjoying sport, and that religion should not be involved.
Regardless of criticism, religious groups will be showing up in droves to share their faith with the 60,000 spectators at the 2012 Olympic Games.
The Games, which involve competitions in various sports with athletes representing each country, begin tonight with a three-hour opening ceremony at 9 p.m. local time at the Olympic Stadium in East London. The event will be broadcast on NBC 7 p.m. ET in the U.S.