Saluting the 15th anniversary of the word ‘Deaflympics’

As the world celebrates the upcoming 15th anniversary of the word Deaflympics, we look at the issues behind the use of this word in the sporting monopoly run by the International Olympic Committee.

During Deaf Awareness Week, here in the UK, it is important to acknowledge that fifteen years ago this month – May 16th, 2001. The International Olympic Committee formally wrote to the CISS giving them permission to use the brand ‘Deaflympics’ in association with what was then the largest multi-sports event in the world for a single disabled group.

Deaflympics 2009

Photo by: Sam Perkins

There has been misinformation that creates misconceptions about the use of the word Deaflympics. Some writers have re-written history by saying that the Deaf broke away from the IPC in the mid 1990s and set up their own Deaflympics. The real facts are that the olympic-format for Deaf sport began in Paris in 1924 as the International Silent Games, since then it has changed branding from World Games for the Deaf to World Deaf Games and now Deaflympics. The Deaflympic Movement reaches its 90th Anniversary this summer.

As soon as the IOC authorised the name change to Deaflympics in 2001, there were some surprises in store. National Deaf Sports Committees began think about changing their own names – the Russians got there first with their equivalent title of Russian Deaflympic Committee – you would think that was such a common-sense thing to do, to bring it into line with other Olympic Movement representatives such as the National Olympic Committees and the National Paralympic Committees.

Unfortunately, the IOC wrote immediately to the CISS ordering the Russians to remove their new title as they were in breach of the IOC/CISS agreement which did not permit derivatives of the word Deaflympics.  The derivatives;  ‘Deaflympic Committee”, “Deaflympian” etc are not permitted.

The IOC lodged a trademark challenge against the organisers of the 2005 Deaflympics  for using the name “Deaflympic Games”. Fortunately, Kevan Gospar, Australian IOC member stepped in to allow the name to stand.

The monopoly of the IOC/IPC has created many difficulties for the ICSD (International Committee of Sport for the Deaf) and its national federations, causing confusion and discord.

The  23rd Summer Deaflympics will be hosted by Sansun, Turkey in June 2017. Meanwhile, athletes and teams will be preparing by competing in regional and World championships.

I hope that through this short piece today, I have used Deaf Awareness week to raise some of the issues facing Deaf sport here in the UK and elsewhere around the world and I ask everyone to give their support to UK Deaf Sport in whatever way they can.

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