IOC’s double standards: one for the US, another for everyone else?

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is allowing goalies from the US Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey to wear painted helmets depicting the Statue of Liberty, although they violate IOC rules on political symbols and iconography. The team will play Canada for the gold medal of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on Wednesday.

Goalies Nicole Hensley and Alex Rigsby both have custom-made masks emblazoned with the image of the colossal statue in New York Harbour which has become an iconic and empty symbol of freedom and liberation. [1]

News agencies report that Hensley’s Lady Liberty is on the left side of her helmet; Rigsby opted for a stamp depicting the statue on the chin. The iconic statue is accompanied by other garish designs including a USA crest on the top, a drawing of the famous V-J Day kiss photograph in Times Square, and a bald eagle — the national symbol of the USA. A third goalie, Maddie Rooney, who started the US 3-1 win over Finland, does not have the Statue of Liberty on her mask.

Under the IOC’s Guidelines Regarding Authorized Identifications, no item may feature the wording or lyrics from national anthems, motivational words, public/political messaging or slogans related to national identity.

The IOC’s rule is as follows:

No Item may feature the wording or lyrics from national anthems, motivational words, public/political messaging or slogans related to national identity.

Despite explicit reports in USA Today and Sputnik that USA Hockey and the IOC were in discussions after USA Hockey was told the designs had to be removed, confirmed by an e-mail from US Hockey, the IOC’s communications department later tweeted to deny claims they had requested their removal. Someone is lying.

Before the Sochi Olympics, U.S. goalie Jessie Vetter had to remove a excerpt of the US Constitution from her helmet. It has also come into play during these Olympics – Canadian goaltender Matt Dalton who plays for South Korea was asked to remove an image of sixteenth-century war hero Admiral Yi Sun-shin from his mask because it was deemed too political.

Egyptian Islam El Shehaby, a judo fighter, was sent home by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after he refused to shake his Israeli opponent’s hand | AFP

While everyone speaks in the name of high ideals and that the Olympics is above politics, the fact is that those who control the Olympics have used this control for the most anti-social aims. The double standards of the IOC on the politicization of sport range from its collective sanctions against Russian athletes to the defence of Israel. Russian symbols were banned altogether from PyeongChang 2018 due to dubious allegations of state-sponsored doping in the country.

In August 2016, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) sent Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby home after he refused to shake his Israeli opponent’s hand.

At the time, the IOC stated that the Egyptian’s conduct “was contrary to the rules of fair play and against the spirit of friendship embodied in Olympic values” and handed down a “severe reprimand”, sending the 34-year-old home. [2]

Tony Granato, coach of the US Men’s National Hockey Team, openly refused to shake hands with the coach of the Russian hockey team.

On the other hand, in the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, Tony Granato, the coach of the US Men’s National Hockey Team, openly refused to shake hands with his counterpart from the Russian Federation after his team was trounced 4-0 on February 17.

This flagrant act of hostility has been hushed up by the sports media and the IOC. As a result of the loss, Team USA now has to play Slovakia to qualify for the bronze medal game.

This begs the question what kind of pressure came to bear on IOC to impose these penalties on some athletes but not on others. Why is the IOC and the media saving the skin of Mr Granato and has become suddenly blind to the chauvinist symbols of the US women goal tenders? Is it blowback from the sanction levelled by the NHL cartel against the Winter Olympics?Was it acting on its own initiative, or were they heavily lobbied to take these measures? Perhaps the refusal to sanction the US coach and the US goalies has more to do with the lucrative NBC broadcast deal of a marquee sport and an effort to bolster its falling ratings in the USA. [3]

Endnotes

1 The colossal statue, a gift from France and erected in 1886, is promoted as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. Many people wrongly think the purpose of 305-foot statue, which is planted on Liberty Island, is to welcome incoming immigrants. This is bolstered by the Emma Lazarus poem engraved on its pedestal, which reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” However, the initial intent for the building of the statue was to celebrate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans after the Civil War. A 2016 interview with Ed Berenson, a New York University professor and author of The Statue of Liberty: A Transatlantic Story, notes that “in an ironic twist, the Statue of Liberty has became a painful symbol of the rights and freedoms denied to the people whose liberation it was initially supposed to celebrate. “And with so many people today asking out loud whether or not black lives actually matter, it’s clear that the liberty celebrated by the statue continues to evade African Americans, even though their emancipation was a catalyst for the statue’s creation.”

2 For its part, “Fifa banned the Iranian girls football team from the first Youth Olympics in Singapore in October on the grounds that the players would be wearing the hijab.” In 2014, a body of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) slapped harsh fines on three of its member clubs – Celtic FC , St Johnstone (Saints) and Dundalk FC – because some fans flew Palestinian flags during their games. UEFA’s Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Committee deemed Palestine’s national flag to be “a political symbol” and flying it at their games to be an infringement of the association’s regulations because  “the conflict with Israeli forces in the region is still ongoing.”

3 Earlier the Deadspin website reported that the women’s slopestyle finals – in which 41 of the 50 runs saw a rider fall – were not cancelled due to unsafe conditions because “pressure from Olympic organizers and broadcast partners insisted that there be something to show in primetime tonight.”

NBCUniversal (NBCU), which boasts of being “America’s Olympic Network,” has the broadcast rights in the USA for the Olympic Games through to 2032. Wikipedia informs that

“In 2011, NBC agreed to a $4.38 billion contract with the International Olympic Committee to broadcast the Olympics through the 2020 games, the most expensive television rights deal in Olympic history. NBC then agreed to a $7.75 billion contract extension on May 7, 2014, to air the Olympics through the 2032 games. NBC also acquired the American television rights to the Youth Olympic Games, beginning in 2014, and the Paralympic Games for the 2014 and 2016 editions. NBC is one of the major sources of revenue for the IOC.”

 

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One response to “IOC’s double standards: one for the US, another for everyone else?

  1. Pingback: The Hope Solo Olympic Medal for Sore Loser (2): US men’s hockey coach | Friendship First, Competition Second – An Amateur Sport Website

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