Thursday, October 02, 2008

Right To Drive A Ford

It's been reported by Randy Starkman of The Toronto Star that Right To Play, an organization backed by athletes the world over, will be shut out of the Athletes Village in Vancouver due to a conflict of sponsorship. Apparently the main issue is that VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee) has a deal with Ford whereas Right To Play has a deal with Mitsubishi Motors Canada, and this is one of the main reasons why a charitable group that serves the best interest of children worldwide will have to work to get their message across to the Athletes of the Vancouver Winter Games.

Right To Play seem to be saying the right things from the top down in regards to this issue, that it's understandable this has taken place. And while the group even made the attempt to go into the village without bearing any logo's to raise awareness for their charity but that too has been shotdown by the Organizing Committee, even that also seems ok by them. To this writer however, it isn't nearly as easily accepted.

Right To Play has made it clear they're still going to be there, they'll just have to be more creative in how they make themselves known to promote their charitable work. This will be the first time since the group was formed in 1992 that they are being disallowed from the Athletes Village, and I think for pretty obvious reasons it's taken the group this long to be barred. A non-profit organization running programs in over 20 countries that are stricken by poverty, war or famine. A group which allows the chance for children in these less fortunate areas the opportunity to play organized sport; according to the mission statement on their website, the group is "creating a healthier and safer world for children through the power of sport and play". They are no longer allowed in to play.

But hey I mean it clearly makes sense that the interests of sponsors should be squarely at the forefront when dealing with a group like this, clearly! And that even when the group is willing to endure guerilla marketing techniques, bearing no visible corporate logos just in hopes to get their message across, they still must be kept away at all costs.

The Vancouver Olympics have already guaranteed themselves one legacy and that's being the first Games to stop this charitable athletic organization from having the greatest exposure possible at the Olympics - apparently all the rest of the Games prior to this one just weren't smart, or maybe not saavy enough, to realize how upset their sponsors may be should a group like this be allowed to taint the Athletes Village with conflicting sponsorship ideals. And while Right To Play may be making all the proper statements in the Front Office, at least that hasn't stopped some of their participating athletes from making their feelings known:

Moguls skier Deidra Dionne, a 2002 Olympic bronze medalist and Right To
Play ambassador, said she was "saddened" by the news.

"It's unfortunate but not entirely surprising that Right To Play, a not
for profit organization designed to spread the Olympic ideals, is a victim of
the modern day sport culture that centres around sponsorship dollars and
partnerships," said Dionne, in an email response.

Boston Bruins defenceman Andrew Ference, who made a trip to Tanzania for
Right To Play, felt any blame lay with VANOC's sponsors.

"It's hard to be frustrated with VANOC when it's their big corporate
sponsors doing the shot calling," said Ference. "When you have these huge
corporations putting in all this money, some demands are going to be reasonable,
some are not reasonable."

The business side of sport has once again reared its ugly head and VANOC, in this opinion, has not done enough to limit the damage it has caused when you see something like this take place. For all those who support Right To Play good on you, and hopefully to the volunteers out there in 2010 are all able to still get the message across even with these new hurdles to navigate. As a group that does the work that Right To Play accomplishes, they deserve better treatment than this...

Charity forbidden in Vancouver athletes village: 2010 organizers bar Right To Play after deal with Mitsubishi

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