Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Olympic Ideals

I wrote this in response to this article in the Globe and Mail today. I don't expect them to print it, but I had to write something.

What is wrong with John Furlong? His comments to the media remind me of the super-keener from High School who plans the prom and won’t admit that anything is wrong even though a gang of Hell’s Angels has hijacked the event, kidnapped the mascot and urinated in the punch bowl.

Says Mr. Furlong in response to protests surrounding the Torch Relay:

The Olympics shouldn't be about politics, it should be about sport. The torch relay is supposed to be about introducing the world to the Olympic values. It can't help but have a good effect on people from other countries. To bury that message under other stuff that has nothing to do with the Olympics is wrong.

Wha? Huh? First off, lets take a look at the “Olympic values”. What exactly does that mean? Straight from the IOC website :

…the goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised (sic) without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

So, John, correct me if I’m wrong here, but my interpretation of what you are saying is that we should strive for peace and a better world, but we shouldn’t actually address any of the issues that might lead to this coming about. You seem to be suggesting that the scope of the Olympics is sport and therefore you needn’t pay attention to anything that falls outside that narrow, narrow band of interest. You’re kind of like a firefighter that refuses to put the fire out in your neighbours house because you work across town and his place doesn’t reside in your precinct.

Weren’t these games sold as the event that would bring China into the mainstream? Didn’t people talk about how China would be forced to clean up their act because the eyes of the world would be upon them? I know it’s not the job of our Olympic organizing committee to bring about rapid political change in a country that could squish us like a bug. But doesn’t it seem a little bit scary that when John Furlong sees a series of protests for an arguably noble cause, his sickness is not caused by the memory of the victims being celebrated, but of the potential headache that it might cause him in two years time?

Here’s some thoughts on an effective way for the IOC to eliminate protests from its events. Don’t give the rights to your events to questionable governments. Act in a way that supports your claims of “Olympic ideals”. Embrace the fact that your organization could be one of creating positive change rather than sticking its head in the sand while stuffing its pockets. Select leaders and organizers willing to stand up for something.

Once again John, this falls a bit outside of your scope, but perhaps the thought that this might somehow negatively affect your games might force you into action.

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