Never Heard of the Deaflympics?

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As we get closer towards the Opening Ceremony of the 23rd Deaflympic games in Samsun, Turkey this summer, Deaflympic athletes and their supporters are working hard to raise the profile of this event through Social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram etc) – this is generating the important and necessary exposure that the event needs.

This is important because it is still largely unknown in the sports world and to the general public and therefore many people will be finding out about the Deaflympics for the first time. When they learn that the Deaflympics are the oldest International multi-sports event in the world for disabled people, they want to know why they have not heard the name before.

All types of movements and organisations within society are highly dependent on the political and public profile that the leaders inherit, cultivate or acquire. The founding of the Olympic, Deaflympic and Paralympic movements all originate from the ideals, beliefs, innovations and leadership of three individuals who have been credited as ‘founding fathers’ of their respective events. They were Baron de Coubertin, Eugene Rubens-Alcais and Ludwig Guttmann.

These founding fathers all started their movements from different starting points and once people understand this, they will realise how important the Socio-economic backgrounds and the amount of political influence that these leaders had was critical in raising the profile of their causes.

Socio-economic backgrounds

Before the first Olympic and Paralympics Games were inaugurated, Coubertin and Guttmann had already become very successful, wellconnecetd and highly celebrated in their professional careers.

In contrast, the co-founder of the International Games for the Deaf, Rubens-Alcais, in his lifetime, never progressed to become anything more than a car-mechanic in a Paris suburb. This surely suggests that the legacy of Eugene Rubens-Alcais is remarkable.

Without a comparable high standing in society, Rubens-Alcais was unable to call upon networks or influential political support when most needed. Described as a ‘brilliant’ man of modest habits, he spent the whole of his adult life in a sparsely furnished and simple attic apartment. He gave all his time and everything he had to the cause of his friends and others.

He was eventually recognised decorated several times by his fellow countrymen; Officier d’Académie 1930 (Silver Palms) – awarded in France for contributions to national education and culture, Médaille d’Or de l’Education Physique (1930), a Gold Medal for Physical Education, Chevalier du Mérite Norvegien (1960), Chevalier du Mérite Social and the Commandeur du Mérite Sportif (1962).

For Guttmann, his starting point was very different. When he first established the Stoke Mandeville games, he was able to call upon the support of many influential people. One of his spinal-cord associates was Professor Maglio, who ran an Italian research centre on impairments. They collaborated and worked to ensure their Games followed on from the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Dr Nakamura, a Japanese medical researcher worked with Mr Kasai, Chairman of the Japanese Sports Association for the Disabled who, through him, had close ties to the Japanese government. And Kasai’s further influence secured funding for the 1964 Games from both public and private sector sources. When the Mexican government cited ‘technical difficulties’ as their reason for not hosting the Paralympics in 1968, the Israeli Government was lobbied by the ILAN Society (a group of disability activists); and this resulted in the event being hosted near Tel Aviv.

 Political Influences

The political connections accessible to Coubertin and Guttmann placed them in a position of influence that Rubens-Alcais could never hope to achieve.

The Olympics were not an original idea of Coubertin. In the beginning, an Englishman, Dr Brookes attempted to revive the concept of the original Olympic Games but was studiously ignored by the British sports establishment, despite having contacts within the Greek government and with the Greek Olympic philanthropists, the Zappas cousins. Brookes then began to collaborate with Coubertin who used his international society contacts to persuade the King of Greece and its government, along with others, to fund the 1896 Olympics in Athens.

The British government funded Guttmann’s research work so he already had the political backing he required. The idea of using sport as a motivator came to Guttmann when he observed patients playing a game in their wheelchairs utilizing a puck and an up-turned walking stick. The Disabled Persons (Employment) Act was passed by the British government in 1944 and members of Parliament who were war-veterans themselves ‘insisted that the act give preference to those injured as a result of war service’. This, however, focused on those who had become disabled by the trauma of war and did nothing to help the congenitally disabled that had not been injured in the line of duty.

It is necessary to digress here, whilst on the subject of political influence, and introduce a fourth pioneer – Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics. Her first “Shriver Camp” was set up in 1962 and was an indelible part of the philanthropic Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation and the political drive of President John Kennedy towards the needs of children and the field of intellectual disability. The Kennedy legacy still remains a large attribute of the Special Olympics today.

Eugene Rubens-Alcais, who was born with normal hearing but became deaf at an early age due to fever, already had odds stocked against him when, in the 1920s, he began his far-reaching friendship with Antoine Dresse. Antoine came from a family of Belgian bankers and industrialists in Liege. These two men formed a unique alliance of interests as they began to build a federation of pan European Deaf sports organizations. They had small networks to draw upon and neither had the credibility of a highly respected international social/professional position. But, nevertheless, what they had was an opportunity to empower disabled people in a society that largely ostracised them.

Eugene Rubens-Alcais resigned as the President of the Comité International des Sports Silencieux (CISS) in 1953 and was succeeded by four other leaders who had to compete with Guttmann’s political standing until Robert Steadward in turn succeeded him. Rubens-Alcais’ successors were also people of modest socio-economic standing (See table below)

Table: CISS Presidents during the time Guttmann led the International Stoke Mandeville Games Federation (ISMGF)
Rubens Alcais FRA (1924-1953) Car mechanic
Oscar Ryden SWE (1953-1955) Joiner, woodcarver, Sculptor, editor and lecturer.
J.P Neilsen DEN (1955-1961) Carpenter
Pierre Bernhard FRA (1961-1971) Carpenter, wood sculptor, coffin maker and WW2 resistance fighter.
Jerald Jordan USA (1971-1995) Printer, teacher, administrator at Gallaudet University for the Deaf.
Further details and biographies can be found in CISS 2001: A Review.

To read more about this subject and understand how the disempowerment of disabled people and the professional background of Deaflympic leaders may also have been a strong factor in the low-profile of the Deaflympics, you can order your own copy of Same Spirit Different Team by giving your contact details here.

The above article is an edited extract from the book itself.

High Praise and High Expectations for Samsun Deaflympics 2017

With just 71 days to go to the Opening Ceremony, President of the ICSD Dr Rukhledev has praised the Organising Committee of this year’s Summer Deaflympics in Samsun, Turkey.

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This is very good news indeed, it is important that standards are continually met in order to meet the high demands and expectations of each generation that comes into sport.

I share Rukhledev’s sentiments and praise for the high quality of the 2005 Deaflympics as I was with the GB team in Melbourne when the organisers teamed up with the Commonwealth Games committee and worked together to use the Deaflympics as a testing event for many of the venues. Taipei were up next in 2009 as they wanted to show the world and the IOC that they too are capable of hosting World Class events and should be considered as a contender to host the Olympics. Again, I can also vouch from personal experience from being there with my family that the organisers did not disappoint us; up until now athletes, officials and administrators in the Deaflympic movement have often wondered if it was possible to improve on the spectacle delivered by the City of Taipei.

By all accounts, it would appear that athletes, officials and supporters heading for Samsun this summer are going to rewarded with the best ever Deaflympics to date. To back up ICSD’s claims, the Chef de Mission of the DeaflympicsGB was very impressed with how things were progressing when he went out for an early inspection visit in February, so things have clearly moved up a notch in the three months since then.

Athletes and coaches preparing for this year’s event should be highly motivated by this good news as things have been very difficult economically, especially when many governments still refuse to treat Deaflympians with the same accord as they do for Paralympians. Whilst DeaflympicsGB have maximised the use of social media, personal contacts and sacrificed training time for fund-raising activities to reach their funding targets recently, other Commonwealth nations like Australia are still looking for funds. The President of the IAAF, Sebastian Coe once said that if you put the athletes at the centre of all your planning and preparations, then they will be able to perform at their lifetime best.

With favourable inspection reports coming in, it would appear that the hosts are going to deliver as Lord Coe suggests. For example, this will be the very first time that there will be an Athletes Village for the Deaflympics where everyone will experience the ‘melting pot’ of cultures and nationalities all sharing the same accommodation to be hosted by the University of Samsun. But this will also bring a new set challenges for the 80 or so, national Chef de Missions and their backroom staff who, up until now have been used to managing the daily logistics of preparation and recovery of their athletes from the sanctuary and isolation of privately booked hotels and other forms of accommodation, with minimal interaction and interference from other teams.

This year I will be joining DeaflympicsGB  as Manager for the golfers where our sport will be medalling for the first time since the games began in 1924. Our hosts will be Samsun Golf Club whose brochure and promotional materials backed up by our CdM’s inspection report reassure us that only the very best will be good enough for our competitors.

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For more information about the Deaflympics 2017

 

Doping in Deaf sport not transparent say critics.

According to an article in Parasport News, the International Committee of Sport for the Deaf (ICSD) who govern the Deaflympics have been substandard when it comes to reporting on doping violations by Deaf athletes.

The full article from Parasport can be read here.

ICSD rules say that when doping cheats are found out, the results will be advertised on the ICSD website – according to the Parasport article, this has never been done.

Since 1986, a total of 370 Paralympic, Deaflympic and disability sport cheats have been caught – but only 28 have been Deaf and all except two were discovered during the Summer and Winter Deaflympic Games.

The nationalities of the 28 athletes are 5 unknown, 1 German and 22 Russians. The ICSD has not published the names of these athletes, this breaches its own rules in article 14.4:

“The ICSD shall publish at least annually a general statistical report of its Doping Control; activities, with a copy provided to WADA. The ICSD may also publish reports showing the name of each athlete tested and the date of each testing.”

This makes it difficult for competition organisers in Deaf World Championships and regional championships to know who has been banned – because the names are not published according to article 14.4.

The greater concern is that doping is not carried out during World Championship and regional events – so it is likely that many more doping athletes are going undetected.

It is of no surprise that the IOC and other international sports bodies will not take Deaf sport seriously because this lack of transparency does not make officials feel confident about the reliability of Deaf sport to run its events to the highest standards.

It can be argued that of ICSD had done their job properly, delegates at the ICSD Congress in 2013 may not have elected the Russians to run their organisation if they knew that in 2009 and 2010 a total of 15 out of 16 athletes caught cheating were Russian.

This alarming lack of oversight on Doping Control means that the  ICSD Executive Committee has allowed Russian athletes to compete in recent Athletics events organised under IAAF rules despite a worldwide ban in the sport of Athletics. The ICSD Athlete Representative Dean Barton-Smith has had no reply from the ICSD to his written concerns about this.

The same goes for Audiogram cheating; event after being found guilty by a Russian court of law for falsifying audiograms, the ICSD Chief Executive still remains in post. Two Big ears has reported on this previously.

When will Deaf sport wake up and challenge the ICSD Executive about this ?

 

 

Is the future looking brighter for British Deaf athletes?

Been a while since my last post; took a break as things were getting rather depressing with regards to the governance of Deaf sport internationally.

But there was some good news today from UK Deaf Sport on the performance funding support given to Deaf world swimming champion Danielle Joyce. This groundbreaking decision by Sterling University to recognise the achievements and potential of british Deaflympians suggests that the future could be promising for deaf children and young people who aspire to be high performance athletes.

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 Joyce, a first year student at Sterling University receives funding support and academic flexibility to enable her coaches to design the preparation programme that is going to give her the best chances of performing at the highest level in both her sport and studies.

The Winning Students scholarships are an annual award available to full-time and part-time students at college or university. The funding can be used to cover costs that ease the burden of being able to concentrate fully on training and studies without the negativity that comes with the pressures of having to raise funds. The scholarship can be used to cover accommodation, competition fees and sports equipment.

By working with Scottish Governing Bodies of Sport and sportscotland Institute of Sport the grant funding complements other existing forms of support. The scholarship has eleven core sports and the governing bodies nominate students for awards whilst the Individual Scholarships offer athletes in other sports the chance to get support.

UK Deaf Sport Ambassador Joyce is adapting to a new programme and has been told that she should not expect any big improvements immediately. But she is already reaping the benefits that have eluded so many of her deaf peers. Her preparations for the World Deaf Swimming Championships are already on track for the 17th – 22nd August in San Antonio, Texas.

The scholarship is available to:

  • British passport holders and able to compete for either Scotland or Great Britain
  • Studying or set to study at a college/university in the Winning Students network
  • 16 to 35 years olds for disabled athlete scholarships and the upper age limits are flexible.
  • Athletes who meet sporting criteria outlined for each sport.

Schools and sports clubs should now be identifying talented deaf athletes and working together with UK Deaf Sport and national governing bodies to put forward applications to Winning Students in order that young deaf people can now take the chance to realise their sporting dreams.

10 Reasons why Russia won the game.

Last Tuesday, ice hockey officials awarded a highly controversial last-second goal to Russia, which has most likely denied the Americans the opportunity to compete in the Deaflympic gold medal match today.

Rules of sport are always complicated and fraught with difficulty. But it s also the responsibility of competition organisers to ensure that the selection of tournament officials is done correctly in order to avoid any doubt when it comes to the interpretation of rules.

The controversial goal has been analysed from different angles by television and amateur video footage. The Americans submitted the initial protest within the 30-minute window. When the result came back still in favour of the goal, the Americans lodged an appeal – this too was overruled despite overwhelming evidence in favour of America.

You can see the video evidence for yourself here. Thanks to “Juciermk”

Two days ago, Two Big Ears consulted with their own contacts in Ice Hockey, who are independent from Deaf sport. Their conclusion is that the referee’s decision is final.

Now, normally, we would move on and chalk it all down to experience. But not on this occasion, because the Americans are now waking up and coming to terms with what it is really like to get into bed with the Russians. The official USA Winter Deaflympic news service believes “This event will most certainly result in continued discussions, and hopefully changes so that other teams so not suffer similar injustices in future events.”

Based on the evidence presented to us, the conclusion is that, as long as Russia is in charge of the Deaflympics, the ICSD will allow mismanagement to continue. Host nations will continue to select tournament officials that swing decision-making in their favour. The Russians are not stupid, but they are arrogant, and corrupt deep within their national psyche. Here are the ten reasons why Russia beat America 6-5 on Tuesday evening.

1. HOST NATION-BIAS

The Russian government has invested heavily into Deaf sport and the Deaflympics. On the one hand this is to be applauded, and puts other nations such as the USA and the UK to shame. However, they are a nation whose politics, economy and sport is so heavily entrenched in corruption that they should not have been allowed to host in the first place. The Russian Deaf Sport Federation (RDSF) did not pay the required $25,000 registration fee when originally applying to host the games, this action contributing to the fiscal mess that the ICSD now find themselves in. Approval was only given once RDSF’s own people had taken over the asylum.

2. THE ICSD ARE NOT IN CHARGE.

First of all, evidence strongly demonstrates that the ICSD have lost control of the 13th Winter Deaflympics and the Russians are taking every advantage possible to ensure they win. Whilst Two Big Ears applauds Russia for working in partnership with non-deaf people to host the games, they are seen by others to have taken advantage of the controversial last-second goal to ensure that a team of veteran ice hockey professionals are not defeated by a young and upcoming team of American youngsters.

Secondly, sportsMX TV reported that ICSD President Rukhledev was brought in to mediate between the Russians and the Americans over the goal controversy. By participating in this way, Rukhledev and demonstrated yet again his incompetency to lead the Deaflympic movement;

a) He is the President and therefore cannot be involved with any disputes – but he chose to ignore this and carry on anyway.

b) He is Russian, so how was he going to make himself impartial to any decision-making? Why did he not instruct his neutral Vice President to attend the meeting instead?

c) It was the responsibility of the ICSD TD to resolve the dispute, not the President.

3. THE PROTEST COMMITTEE IS BIASED

The ICSD regulations allow the host (The Organising Committee) to choose who takes control of each sport. In this case, the Russians have appointed three of their own countrymen headed by well-known skating coach. Given reason 1 and 2, it is not surprising that the last-second goal could have been voted 3-1 against. The American protest and subsequent appeal has so far failed to extract “… a clear explanation as to why the goal was counted…” (official US Deaflympic media)

4. RUSSIANS DON’T DO COMPROMISE

According to the USA Deaflympic news reports, there have now been several days since the controversial result was made for officials to have made a correction. Either to have the two teas plan an overtime period, or just agree to a 5-5 tie. Sorry guys, that isn’t going to happen. This is the Russians you are dealing with.

5. RUSSIANS DO CORRUPTION AND CHEATING – IT IS BUSINESS AS USUAL

The Russian Deaf Sports Federation has been found guilty by a court of Law of falsifying an athlete’s audiogram to discredit him. The ICSD Congress has voted to ignore this and carry on. This is normal behaviour from Russians when it comes to participating internationally in sport and foreign policy, as the next two reasons will show:

6. DOPING IN SPORT IS A RUSSIAN NORM

The IAAF is struggling to find real evidence of doping amongst the ranks of Russian athletics. Good luck, it does not have the resources against the Russian system. The same goes for the ICSD, and the audiogram ‘doping’. And;

7. RUSSIAN TACTIC: DENIAL, DENIAL, DENIAL

When Russia invaded the Ukraine, they denied accusations that they had sent in their own troops to take control. When they had control of the Crimea, they clarified that “volunteers” had crossed the border. When faced with the clear evidence of audiogram fraud, they have remained silent and taken advantage of ICSD amateurism and distrust amongst nations to shield themselves from having to come clean.

8. IF THE RUSSIAN’S DON’T LIKE YOU…

One day you will be minding your own business, crossing a bridge and you will get shot from behind.

9. RUSSIANS BLAME OTHER PEOPLE:

  • The invasion of the Ukraine was not their fault
  • Shooting political activists is not their fault
  • Campaigning to overrule the early cancelation of the 2011 Winter Deaflympics, and then blaming others when it all fell apart is not their fault.
  • Concerns about audiogram cheating is just ‘sour grapes’

10. RUSSIANS TAKE CREDIT WHERE IT IS NOT DUE:

  • Contemporary recognition from IOC is not down to Rukhledev, it is thanks to Crowley’s diplomacy (2009-2013)
  • The concept of the International Deaflympic Committee is not Rukhledev’s idea. It was created during Ammons’ residency (pre 2009).
  • Russians have not contributed any beneficial actions to safeguard ICSD or the Deaflympics.

The world should not be surprised then, that the Russians have never been given the opportunity to lead, in any shape or form, a multinational sport federation, commercial entity or geopolitical organisation that includes Western nations. The ICSD Presidency has been a gift to the Russians to practice their imperialism and anti-IOC agenda.

A pity then that Russia has not taken the greatest opportunity to demonstrate good practice by ensuring that the Protest Committee of the ICSD Deaflympic Ice Hockey tournament was multi-national. Something that was well within their means to achieve to ensure that Olympic-level sports governance is transparent. Instead, they have chosen to play the game their way and have done the Deaflympic movement a further disservice by creating further controversy.

 

Deaflympic Congress votes to ignore fraudulent behaviour of the Russians.

Last week, at the 45th Congress of the International Committee of Sport for the Deaf, a proposal to discuss concerns about the Russia Committee of Deaf Sport (RCDS) being found guilty (by a Russian Court of Law) of submitting fraudulent audiograms was turned down and effectively ignored.

When put to a vote, 33 delegates were in favour of action, 5 against and 12 abstained. The motion needed 41 votes to gain a majority of 75% to proceed in accordance with the ICSD Constitution.

Staff employed by the RCDS falsified audiograms in 2011 to discredit an athlete. They were found guilty in a Russian Court of Law and another Court also overturned their subsequent appeal in 2014. Dimitry Rebrov, the current Chief Executive Officer of the ICSD, submitted the audiogram and Valery Rukhledev, now President of ICSD, was President of RCDS at the time.

The act of RCDS officials submitting fraudulent audiograms is on a par with Olympic officials submitting fraudulent doping specimens or test results or Paralympic officers submitting fraudulent disability classification assessments.

This raises the question; Do the 12 national representatives at the ICSD Congress who abstained actually understand the implications of the case? Was something amiss in translation? Did the proposers allocate sufficient time to ensure that everyone had read or understood their concerns?

When random testing in carried out at the Deaflympics, athletes whose hearing loss does not meet the audiogram standards are dismissed from competitions immediately. Job done.

But when a national federation is found guilty by a Court of Law of deliberately submitting a false audiogram to discredit an athlete – nothing is done.

Something is not right.

Critical Review of Thomas Giddens’ documentary: “Does Deaf Football have a Future?”

I have been eagerly anticipating the release of a new documentary “Does Deaf Football Have a Future?” because it is the first time in a while that a programme about Deaf sport was being made in the UK where I had no involvement or insight. I wanted to compare this documentary with my analysis and perspective of the way in which media promotes the Deaflympic Movement and Deaf sport.

 

The documentary has been made at BSL Zone who support the next generation of d/Deaf filmmakers through their Zoom 2014 scheme aimed at d/Deaf scriptwriters and directors who have some experience but have never had their work broadcast on television. This is Thomas Giddens first ever attempt at documentary filmmaking where he explores ideas about the future of Deaf football. The film is now available online.

 

There are an infinite number of ways to analyse a subject and in Same Spirit Different Team I highlight the important of how the media representation of sport shapes and informs public attitudes to disability sport. Journalists have the power to inform or not to inform and they construct reality from their particular perspectives. I was looking forward to finding out how far Giddens would take his responsibility of wielding power to inform us about the future of Deaf football.

 

Without giving too much away; I recommend that you watch this enjoyable and well-made documentary as I think it gives people a broad perspective of Giddens potential as a documentary maker. This debuting director was limited to 15 minutes of airtime and I think he did well to;

  • Use old newsreels and contemporary footage, to give us an historical perspective from the experience of the current GB manager Philip Gardiner.
  • Advocate the current politics and philosophies about deaf football
  • Briefly explore the importance of role models and inclusive football
  • Give us all a hint into what the senior management at GB Deaf Football believes needs to be done in the future

 

Exposure to mass media plays a significant role in reinforcing existing norms and attitudes that might serve to change public attitudes. Family and peer opinions can be strong, but these too are mass media influenced. Journalists have the power to inform or not inform and they construct reality form their particular perspectives.

 

I hope this experience has inspired Giddens to continue making sports documentaries because the more coverage we have of the Deaflympics and Deaf sport, the more information we have to share with the public and society to increase exposure and encourage debate and discussion.

 

Whatever coverage is realised, it does influence attitudes towards the Deaflympics brand; and so it is important that national federations like UK Deaf Sport and their IOC representative the International Committee of Sport for the deaf (ICSD) interacts with the media as much as it possibly can; to present a positive and attractive brand to future athletes, target audiences, corporate supporters and others who are essential to the sustainability of Deaf sport.

 

The Zoom film scheme is designed to support the next generation of d/Deaf filmmakers. Included five days training, mentorship, script development, production and communication support. Find out more by logging into the BSL Zone.