Athletes To Officials Banning Right To Play: Shame On You
|TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO|
|Beckie Scott skis to a silver medal in Torino, Italy exactly three years ago today.|
A Who's Who of present and past Canadian Olympians today sent out an overwhelming statement of support to the humanitarian organization Right To Play over its ouster from the athletes village for the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics.
Its strength is really in its simplicity and timing.
One year out from the Games, it embarrasses the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) by the sheer power of the names on the list -- including athletes held up by VANOC, the IOC and Canadian Olympic Committee as paragons of Olympic values.
These include Olympic champion cross country skier Beckie Scott, who is a member of VANOC's board of directors and the IOC Athletes Commission, and three-time Olympic rowing gold medalist Marnie McBean, who works for the Canadian Olympic Committee, as well as three-time Olympic rowing medalist Silken Laumann .
Scott and McBean, in particular, are going out on a limb in signing the statement, because it won’t be well received in the worlds they currently inhabit.
What this statement appears to say more than anything to the poobahs who run the 2010 Winter Games and the Olympic movement as well as the sponsors who supported the barring of Right To Play from the athletes village is: Shame on You.
The athletes write among other things:
"This is an athlete driven movement. As we, the athletes, have been talking to each other, we found something felt deeply wrong and violated by the IOC’s ruling. "
"Because the athletes are intensely focused on competition during the Olympics, providing easy contact to RTP (Right To Play) is necessary."
Among the other names signing the statement are:
Olympic champions Jenn Heil, Adam Van Koeverden, Chandra Crawford, Mark Tewksbury, Hayley Wickenheiser, Jayna Hefford, Cassie Campbell, Kyle Shewfelt, Clara Hughes and from the Olympic champion men’s eight Adam Kreek, Andrew Byrnes, Ben Rutledge, Brian Price Dominic Seiterle, Jake Wetzel, Kevin Light, Kyle Hamilton.
Also among those currently preparing for the Vancouver Winter Olympics on the list are: long track speed skater Denny Morrison (world champion, 1500 metres), cross country skier Devon Kershaw, freeestyle aerialist Deidra Dionne (Olympic bronze, 2002), Drew Neilson (World Cup overall champ boardercross), short track speed skater Jean-François Monette, and skeleton racers Jeff Pain (Olympic silver, 2006) and Mellissa Hollingsworth (Olympic bronze, 2006).
Here is the complete statement and list.
It was the VANOC who made the original decision to bar Right To Play for the first time since its inception in 1992 because the charity’s sponsors conflicted with their own and partly because one of its biggest sponsors, General Motors, feared ambush marketing.
The IOC subsequently decided to ban the humanitarian organization from future Games and VANOC has done its best to hide behind them on this issue. The IOC delivered the cheery news of their ouster to Right To Play in a letter just before Christmas.
Count on VANOC coming out and saying something today -- if they say anything at all -- about how they, too, support Right To Play’s cause and wish them well and will do everything to support them outside the village and about how they passed the hat around at Christmas to raise money for them and that some of their best friends and own board members are part of Right To Play.
Blah. Blah. Blah.
These athletes who stepped forward represent a future and past Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame cast based on their performance on the field of play, but even more so for their eloquent statement today.