Don’t Fall for VANOC Spin on Right To Play’s Ouster
|TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO|
|From left, speed skater Arne Dankers, Olympic moguls champion Jennifer Heil, Hayley Wickenheiser, and speed skater Kristina Groves.|
The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Winter Games (VANOC) would like us to believe they were on the sidelines while the humanitarian group Right To Play was getting booted out of the athletes village.
But the fact remains this was a VANOC initiative from the get-go. They said as much when the story first broke in October. VANOC official Andrea Shaw said it was their own decision to keep Right To Play out because of conflicting sponsors.
Shaw made a point - the same day she made that statement - of trying to get back in touch with the Star again later to add something to what she’d said earlier – that the International Olympic Committee was considering kicking Right to Play out of the entire Olympic movement.
Interesting that Shaw was in touch enough with the IOC to have that information – which turned out to be true – but VANOC officials, including top gun John Furlong, wanted us to believe yesterday they weren’t aware that the IOC had followed through on what VANOC said they were threatening to do in October.
We should all remember the stance that VANOC and General Motors Canada took when the original news broke and they took a beating in the media. There was a lot of talk about how they would work hard to resolve the issue. Furlong was one of those saying that.
GM Canada wrote a letter to the Star, saying they really cared about the charity and were offering transportation during the Games and access to events for some of Right To Play’s kids at the Vancouver Olympics (They obviously did not understand the charity's work. These are kids living in the most desolate places in the world; they need sports programs, not bobsleigh tickets.)
VANOC never got back in touch with Right To Play after making that public show of concern. The Star called VANOC yesterday to ask about that, but they couldn’t produce a live person and instead sent canned quotes which stated they were on the sidelines while the IOC made the decision. (Let's face it, the IOC makes a large and convenient target. All those who cover them know that.)
VANOC also pointed out in the email they sent yesterday that they did an internal fundraiser for Right To Play during Christmas. They didn’t say how much it raised.
From Dave Cobb, VANOC Executive vice president, Revenue, marketing, communications:
“Their participation in the Village is only one way that they were involved in the Games and we’ve been monitoring discussions carefully. We felt it was important for us to at least stay on the sidelines until Right To Play and the IOC resolved what their long term arrangement would be. We’re only here for another year.
"The work they do is much needed and fantastic work and the IOC believes that too – but for whatever reasons, they’ve concluded that they won’t be part of the Village.
"We believe very strongly in what they (RTP) do and support them through a number of initiatives. We have people on our staff who are members of their Board, in fact we participated in a fundraising campaign internally over Christmas – but as a result of discussions with the IOC, they won’t be part of the Village.”
This from staunch Right To Play supporter and ace speed skater Clara Hughes on yesterday’s news:
“It is a disappointment to me because I believe RTP (Right To Play) has had a huge impact on athletes since 2000 in terms of bringing many of us back to the simplicity of sport and play -- and bridging the gap between this simplicity and what we are doing as athletes at the Olympic level.
“However, in saying this, in some ways this is a positive thing for RTP in that they will be able to focus many of their resources during the Olympics outside of the village and engage enormous amounts of people into the movement of sport for development.
Here is the IOC’s official position:
"The IOC is committed to using sport to help disadvantaged people, especially young people, and contribute to the development of healthy communities. As part of these efforts the IOC works with a wide range of partners including UN and government agencies, NGOs and sports bodies around the world.
"The IOC has extensive peace promotion, humanitarian assistance and environmental programmes and is also active in refugee camps. The IOC has decided to focus its resources on these programmes.
"As a result, the IOC has reviewed its relationships with a number of partners, including Right to Play, and decided not to renew the Memorandum of Understanding between the IOC and Right to Play which expired last year. Right to Play will remain a recognized organization within the Olympic Movement and thus enjoy the full respect of the IOC for its activities."