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OpEd: Dear IOC, remembering our dead is not a political statement

Spending even a moment thinking about athletes who have died is too much to ask of the International Olympic Committee.
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Nevil Hunt, February 11, 2014 10:31:31 AM

Two years ago, Sarah Burke, a Canadian moguls skier who successfully lobbied to get slopestyle and ski halfpipe added to the Winter Games, died following a tragic training accident.

This year, her hard work paid off and Sochi became the first Olympics to feature the two new alpine disciplines.

Some members of Team Canada in Sochi wanted to wear a small sticker to show their gratitude and memorialise their colleague.

The International Olympic Committee said no, adding it doesn’t allow “political statements.”

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How an organization dedicated to celebrating athletic achievement could show so little care for its athletes is astounding.

Commemorating or remembering a past event or person is not a “political statement” as the IOC says it is. It’s a matter of just being human.

Burke means so much to the competitors in the new events that even an Australian snowboarder told a reporter that he always wears a sticker on his board and helmet to remember her.

Dealing with the IOC is almost like dealing with Doctor Evil. The organization is international and seeks only global dominance. Nothing can get in the way: not even a sticker. Only approved things are allowed to happen, and then only after being thoroughly vetted. Stalin would be proud.

A cynic might say the sticker is considered verboten because it might distract viewers from the corporate logos plastered across many Olympic team uniforms.

Of course there are much bigger issues in Olympic history than one Canadian woman and people who want to remember her.

In 1972, 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were killed by terrorists. Since then, the IOC has ignored every effort to have the loss remembered during an opening or closing ceremony.

Prior to London’s Games in 2012, there was a push to have a moment of silence at the opening ceremonies to mark the 40th anniversary of the deaths. Sorry, the IOC said, not even a minute is OK.

It appears that when it comes to the athletes murdered in Munich, the IOC is allowing itself to be pressured by nations with anti-Israeli feelings. Because it can’t mark the 1972 deaths, the committee is stuck, unable to let anyone remember anything.

There is a possible solution – one that every nation should be able to support. At each opening ceremony, allow the crowd and the athletes gathered to spend one minute in silence to remember those who have gone before them.

Give everyone one minute to pause and let each of us decide what’s important to us during those 60 seconds.

Maybe it will be the 11 athletes killed in Munich or poor Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Georgian luger who died while training before the Vancouver Games of 2010.

Allow people to reflect and then get on with the Games. It’s the human thing to do.

Above: Rory Bushfield, husband of Sarah Burke, holds a candle in front of her picture during a memorial service for freestyle skier Sarah Burke in Whistler, B.C. Tuesday, April 10, 2012. Burke a freestyle skiing pioneer died Jan. 19, 2012 following an accident during a training session in Utah.
Image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

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