The IOC and the Olympic Spirit

4. The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. The organisation, administration and management of sport must be controlled by independent sports organisations.

5. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.International Olympic Committee, “Fundamental Principles of Olympism,” in Olympic Charter: In force as from 7 July 2007.

It is well known that the International Olympics Committee has over the years been a aristocratic club, where royalty could hobnob with other dignitaries. Originally the selection of wealthy IOC members was purportedly because they would be above corruption to money. But some IOC members are not above corruption, as the 2002 Olympic Winter Games scandal revealed.Six members of the IOC were expelled for accepting bribes over the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. “The Olympics Industry,” PBS, 19 February 1999.

With the corporatization of the Olympics, money has flowed and the attraction for some IOC members to accept bribes has grown.Helen Jefferson Lenskyj, Inside the Olympic Industry: Power, Politics, and Activism (SUNY Press, 2000): 60.

At the very least it might be expected that the elitist circle of IOC members might respect the hard training of athletes in preparation for the Olympics. It seems, however, that preserving the perks and prerogatives of the exclusive IOC club members trumps the dedicated effort of athletes.

The IOC has banned Iraqi athletes from competing reportedly because of the Iraqi government’s “political interference” in sports.

CCN reports the ban is because of an Iraqi government decision in May to suspend the nation’s Olympic Committee and form a temporary committee to handle its duties.Iraq banned from Summer Olympics,” CNN, 24 July 2008.

The Iraqi government thought the committee had not been operating properly and as a result undermined the sporting movement there.

The Iraqi government complained that the original Iraqi IOC committee had been holding meetings without a quorum and had officials, many residing outside Iraq, serving over five years in one-year posts.

According to IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau, Iraq was suspended it removed elected officials and installed people the IOC wouldn’t recognize.

Whatever the reason in the dispute between the Iraqi government and the IOC, the IOC has chosen to penalize athletes innocent in this matter. Where is the Olympic spirit in this?

The IOC is violating its own Olympic Charter. It is denying what it maintains is a human right: “the practice of sport.” These athletes have qualified for the games, and yet they are banned to practice their sport for no wrongdoing on their part.

The Olympic Charter also holds that there must be no “discrimination with regard to a country.” But seven athletes are being banned because they are from Iraq.

Is this the Olympic spirit of friendship, solidarity, and fair play?

Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be emailed at: kimohp at Read other articles by Kim.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozhidar balkas said on July 25th, 2008 at 8:02am #

    any singer who makes money from singing is, to me, dishonest.
    any athlete who makes money from sport is also a traitor of human race.
    i’m a song writer and below average singer. i do not nor will i ever take money for this gift that our genetic pool should be thatnked for.
    before amers took over olympics, they weere s’mwhat better. now, u have to pay me to watch’em
    thank u

  2. denk said on July 25th, 2008 at 8:59pm #

    the nyt and guardian etc demanded to know, “why dont we boycott the beijing olympic over the “tianamen massacre” ? [sic]

  3. Helen Lenskyj said on July 30th, 2008 at 2:03pm #

    My new book, Olympic Industry Resistance: Challenging Olympic Power and Propaganda (SUNY Press, June 2008) examines
    the Olympic aftermath in Barcelona, Atlanta, and Sydney, and provides
    analyses of Olympic impacts and community resistance in Salt Lake City, Athens, Vancouver, and London, as well as in the unsuccessful bid cities of New York and Toronto.It also tackles two new issues – Olympic education and athlete/role model rhetoric – in order to understand mechanisms used in the socialization of children and youth that lead them to think uncritically about sport and the Olympics.