Thursday, March 7, 2013

Olympics and Feminism


There is a War On
*Issues Are Connected (Here are the last three paragraphs from the original introduction)

The (US) president's second mistake, (during his speech it Cairo) according to the confident local Muslim, is that he said the west, too, needs to do more for equal rights for women. Too many Muslims will use this as an excuse not to act. I have read in other sources that Muslim men believe that we western men are dishonest, that in reality we too believe that women should not be equal. This reminds me of how the white South Africans, under apartheid, used to say that we too believed in racism.

I have a dream that one day we shall all meet under a democratic sky, a dream encouraged by the scientific evidence (see economist Krueger) that terrorism is connected not to poverty but to a lack of democratic rights. Perhaps the completion of the war on terror will be at the end of a long slow road to human equality. Not male equality.

So if you know any western people on the winter Olympic committee, people who are making us look bad to the Muslims, please rap their knuckles for me.

The Olympics are for Peace
*An Issue went to Court (Here are the last two paragraphs of an Olympic essay introduction)

Nancy Green attended university in Nelson; I took a U of Calgary night school class in law: I learned how the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies not only to citizens, but, by federal Supreme Court ruling, to anyone under Canadian sky. Now I find how oppressors can get around that ruling if the orders to oppress are issued from offshore.

The B.C. Supreme Court (provincial) has finished hearing the case of the Canadian women ski jumpers. "There will little solace to the plaintiffs in my finding that they have been discriminated against; there is no remedy available to them in this court." This was in the Calgary Sun, Saturday July 11, 2009. The Sun, reminiscent of my other essay, has buried the story 15 pages into the sports section.

Olympics and Feminism

I can never forget her. She was a pretty biathlete who wanted to be an Olympian. I remember her bright white T-shirt, nice blue jeans and blond athletically short hair. When I came upon her she was standing on a low stool and painting on the boards on a construction site. Here our city's Olympic plaza was being built, inspired by the plaza in Sarajevo. People at the winter games in Sarajevo, a few months ago, had gathered every night celebrate the day's events. For our own Olympics we would soon have a plaza too.

For this dear lady, though, future Olympic celebrations would be bittersweet. The looming Olympics excited the rest of us; schoolchildren had painted happy athlete stick figures on the boards. And there the blond stood, on her stool, like Moses on a hill, sketching a holy land she could never tread. My friend would never ski at the Games. She would only watch.

The world body for the biathlon for the winter Olympics is mainly European. They had just met and "decided" that female biathletes would not participate. There would only be a men's event. I could understand that Europeans lag behind the rest of us in feminism, but understanding does not mean forgiveness. Not from me. By waiting four years for the coming Olympics, and then a further four years down the road... my friend, despite her buff determined body, would be too old to compete. How very sad. I felt like an eight year old trying to silently comfort an adult as I reached up to pat her arm twice.

Down the years I've never quite wanted something badly enough to become devoted to excellence and focus, not like an athlete, but I sympathize deeply with those who do. Myself, I prefer to read more than I exercise, reading things like George Santayana's "Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it."

This winter I am imagining some European guy talking out of both sides of his mouth. "Rights? Women already have equal rights... And besides, they don't deserve it." In Canada the right to the pursuit of happiness is perhaps not yet equal either: buried in the middle of the newspaper, buried six pages into the sports section, is news that the Europeans have done it again. According to the Calgary Herald, Nov 29, 2006 page E6, the International Olympic Committee has ruled that the coming Games of Ice and Snow will include an exciting new event, ski cross, but will not include ski jumping, not for women. I guess the old unexciting concept of equality is still too new for them.

The article contained quotes of Canadian athletes mourning the loss, and hoping against hope that the aging leading lights in their field would not retire before the next Olympics. Ironically, on the same page was a story of Canadian ski racers getting inspired by, and empathizing with, the Canadian male ski racers. Excitement? Empathy? If only Europeans could learn, as Canadian women have, to stand in someone else's ski boots. How many times can we turn our heads while the light of half the human race is dimmed?

By the way, ten years later an eager young biathlete told me that my old friend was still hitting the snow trails skiing and shooting.


Finally the issue came to a sad conclusion. This time the story was not buried in the sports section: The front of section C, "People," for the Calgary Herald, Sunday April 10, read "Behind the scenes of this week's announcement allowing women's ski jumping into the Olympics was a group of Calgary mothers who worked tirelessly on  behalf of their daughters to buck the international sporting establishment."

I am angered at the word "allowing" for I think rights are not "allowed;" I am soured at how the "work" came from women old enough to have known feminism, not from any of the young male "good German" sports figures; I am saddened at the recital of the names and occupations of young daughters who, while they may have gone on to "get a life," going on to "the real world," they have also left behind their dreams of skiing down Mount Olympus. A little bit of my dreamlife is gone too.

Sean Crawford
as the snow is dumped on us again today,
heartened to feel that spring is as perennial as hope,
March 2013 (and April 2011.31)

Footnote: This is a companion piece to my one from last month, (February) Olympics and Boards. As I wrote then, I see no reason to wait until next year's Olympics before we start to think critically about the Games. Once the Games start we will be too busy to think.

Update: Edmonton Sun, Dec 13, 2013 , page Sports 19, below a big (AFP) photo of a mid-air skier, and a small (Getty Images/AFP) picture of Canadian woman ski jumper Atsuko Tanaka:
Headline: High Flyers Grounded kicker: Canadian ski jumpers won't receive any of the $37 million coming to Own the Podium program
According to coach Lyon, "…said the program received funds in years past, but because the Canadian jumpers didn't perform particularly well at last year's world championships, they wre cut off—meaning that the build-up to this season for Sochi has been a financial grind for the team and the program."

As the article by Steve Bufffery explains, from coach Lyon: "He said a professor at McMaster University, in a gesture of goodwill, designed a special harness the Canadian jumpers could use at the Ottava facility to help in their preparations for Sochi. He said most of the top European teams use wind tunnels for training." But it would have cost abut $40,000 for three days… and so the Candadian athletes were shut out.

Buffery's article ends: "And how's this for the ultimate kick in the head? While programs like Ski Jumping Canada are forced to scramble ahead of the Games, the COC recently announced that it will be  flying its new team mascot Kamak the Moose all across Canada and to Sochi to do whatever it  is mascots do. Talk about getting your priorities mixed up."

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