Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Laura Robinson . The Olympic spirit is weak

In attempting to uphold the fanciful 'Olympic Ideal,' athletes face the corporate and bureaucratic bulldozer that the Beijing Games have become

Laura Robinson, Citizen Special

Published: Wednesday, March 12, 2008

But doing so - engaging in the kind of actions of the sixties that physically confronted the powerful, on campuses and in the street - puts you on a list that gets you stopped in your tracks when you hit customs, and if you are an athlete, sitting on the bench at home. Britain's top badminton player, Richard Vaughan, has spoken out against the British Olympic Association's "gag order" that forces athletes to legally agree to not "comment on any politically sensitive issues." After spending so much of his life working toward the extraordinarily difficult goal of being a great athlete, he is told he is only allowed to be part of the spectacle, not a human being with the right to a conscience.

Protesters become prisoners within their own words. Olympian Nikki Dryden, who swam for Canada in 1996 and is now a human rights lawyer in New York, teamed with Ms. Farrow and other luminaries to deliver a diplomatically worded letter to China's representative at the UN, only to be quickly ignored. We shall see if anything changes.

As Canadians we have been great champions of human rights violations in other countries, but what of our own? What of the exploitation of our natural resources and disregard for native rights? Vancouver is hosting the 2010 Winter Games and recently B.C. First Nation chiefs expressed bitterness when Premier Gordon Campbell rejected the Indigenous Nations Recognition Act that was supposed to transfer the idealistic goals of creating "a constructive, new government-to-government relationship, based on mutual respect, recognition and reconciliation" found in the province's vision statement into legislation. Now the chiefs feel three years of dedicated work in this subject are for naught.

At the same time, the Maiyoo Keyoh Society of the Carrier Sekani tribe stood guard at their roadblock near Williams Lake to protest logging on land that is subject to their land claim. They cite recent Supreme Court decisions that speak of the rights of aboriginal people to be consulted about activities on claimed Crown land. No one consulted them when the logging trucks were loaded with logs from the lands of their ancestors.

Now indigenous people say protests and blockades may be the order of the day, and that includes the land under which the 2010 Olympic venues are built - all of which is subject to a claim.

And once again athletes will be in the path of the bulldozer.

Laura Robinson, a Nordic skiing and cycling coach, is the author of Black Tights: Women, Sport and Sexuality. Her most recent film is Niigaanibatowaad: Frontrunners.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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