Thursday, January 22, 2009

Right to Deny: IOC passes judgment on the Right to Play-VANOC dispute

Following a dispute over sponsorship issues the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has banned humanitarian sports organization Right to Play from participating in not only the coming Olympics Games in 2010 in Vancouver, but all subsequent Games to follow.

This past October a dispute arose between Right to Play and the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC), however it seemed inevitable at the time the issue would resolve itself due to the negative light that would be shed on all parties involved if such a charitable foundation was blocked. A foundation that actually sprung from the Olympic movement by Olympic athletes.

In the end it appears that events went from bad to decidedly worse for the Toronto based, sports oriented foundation. The Canadian Press announced today that the IOC has decided Right to Play, a humanitarian group spreading good will and participation in sport to various regions around the world that may not have the opportunity without such assistance, has been banned from all Olympiads.
The international humanitarian organization Right to Play has been told by the International Olympic Committee it is not welcomed at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games, or future Olympics...The ban will continue for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

For a group that places the utmost importance on both educating and securing new athletes to support and contribute to their cause, this can be considered a critical blow. However when presented with the opportunity to attack the IOC themselves, Johann Koss, the President and CEO of Right to Play, decided to take the high road instead.
Koss hesitated when asked if by banning Right to Play, the IOC was violating its own goals.

"I don't want to comment necessarily on the IOC's decision," he said. "We have grown out of the Olympic organizing committee and the Olympic movement.

"This is our history and this is where we belong. I don't want to speculate on the issue and the decision made by the IOC."

Considering what has recently befallen Vancouver in organizing these Games this will surely not help improve their image. In fact appalling is a pretty good word that comes to mind when one is reminded that the original conflict arose from nothing more than a conflict of sponsors (Right to Play is with Toyota while VANOC has signed on with General Motors...will refrain to comment on who made the better decision there...). And even though the disputed advertising was not key to promotional material, not prevalent on the Right to Play website either, and that this has never been a concern in past Olympics the group has attended dating back to 1994, the recent rift that was created simply could not be repaired.

So as both the IOC and VANOC claim a rather infamous role in the charitable history books, the IOC is also left to deal with what appears to be quite the hypocritical decision on their part. They should provide a press release as to why they have attacked an organization promoting sport to youth all over the world, but then again communication may not be a strong suit of the IOC.
Koss said his organization tried to reach a compromise.

"After the initial discussion with VANOC and the IOC, we did present to them a way where we could work together," he said. "I did not get a response from that. That was five months ago.

"Since then we had not heard anything before I received this letter."
If and when the other side of the story ever comes out then these actions can be judged accordingly, but until then this is just one big disappointment. One can hold out hope, however, that this dispute is resolved in the future so that even if these Games are deprived of this great organization maybe future Olympiads will not. One can only hope...hey at least hope is in fashion right now!

IOC says Right to Play not welcome at Olympic Games any more (The Canadian Press)


Ron Rollins said...

What did they actually do? Promote baseball?

Mike Radoslav said...

Baseball?? pfft! ;) But in all seriousness, here's the mission statement from their website:

Right To Play is an international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play programs to improve health, develop life skills, and foster peace for children and communities in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world. Working in both the humanitarian and development context, Right To Play trains local community leaders as Coaches to deliver its programs in countries affected by war, poverty, and disease in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child guides our work. Right To Play programs target the most marginalized including girls, people living with disability, children affected by HIV and AIDS, street children, former child combatants and refugees.

Currently, Right To Play works in 23 countries: Azerbaijan, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, China, Ethiopia, Ghana, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Pakistan, Peru, occupied Palestinian territory, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, the United Arab Emirates and Zambia.

Right To Play is supported by an international team of top athletes from more than 40 countries. As role models, these athletes inspire children, raise awareness and promote opportunities for funding for Right To Play programs.

Right To Play is headquartered in Toronto, Canada and has national offices in Canada, The Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. The national offices raise funds, build awareness for Right To Play programs and advocate for Sport for Development.

Mike Radoslav said...

On a more personal note while not in partnered with Right to Play I was able, on a trip down to Mexico, to help out at an orphanage for children born with HIV/AIDS. My Grandmother (who lives down there) sung songs with the girls at the orphanage while my brother and I played soccer with the boys, having brought them a new soccer ball to have as their own as a gift.

The language barriers existed sure but in sport those barriers are removed and just the game remains - it's one of those amazing things about sport in general. Each time I went and spent time with them was an amazing experience, I was actually very close to joining this group and heading out for Africa recently, and have still toyed the idea in fact.

So maybe I'm overreacting here but groups like this one serve nothing but good, and so do the people who become part of them. The IOC should really be ashamed of themselves, VANOC too.

Dennis Prouse said...

As disgusting as this is, I can't even muster up an ounce of surprise. The IOC long ago turned its back on its ideals in favour of commercialism and the almighty dollar.

My hope is that Right to Play launches a successful guerilla marketing campaign in Vancouver that thoroughly embarrasses the IOC. The media will love it, and ironically it will probably help RTP more than an official presence would have.