Never Heard of the Deaflympics?

Samsun emblem2017-s-large

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.

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.

Are the Deaflympics really necessary ?

A common question I often get asked : “Are the Deaflympics really necessary?”

The straight answer is “Absolutely.”  However, people seek justification for that assertion – they want to understand it in ways that they can relate to.

Recently, I came across a short video of Helen Willis and her life as a student at university. Helen wears a cochlear implant and the video explains the pros and cons of day to day living. Before you read the rest of this post, you need to watch the film, (there are subtitles and there is some sign language) It is only about 9 minutes long so please bear with me and come  back to this page once you have finished watching here.

Welcome back. Now, I suspect that some of you will have already decided how some scenes in that video give clear reasons why the Deaflympics are really necessary for the benefit of Deaf people. However, if you are still unsure, allow me to elaborate.

The IOC, in its wisdom, believe that the Deaflympics segregate Deaf people from society. On the contrary, the Deaflympics are necessary to provide opportunities to a balanced world of “silence and synthetic sound”. Although there have been advances in Cochlear Implant technology that now overcomes some of the limits in Helens implant, there is still a need for assistive technology and other resources to enable a Deaf person to function independently. Implants are not a cure and flashing doorbells, electronic note-takers, sign language and the company of other deaf people is still required.

The Deaflympics are necessary because the IOC and sport has not yet solved the barriers that prevail in sport. It is said that the ‘rules of the game’ do not need to be adapted for deaf people – but the environment does. Opportunities to improve communication for Deaf athletes and others in the sports environment remain uncharted, untapped and under-resourced. The assistive technology already in use at the Deaflympics is still not a regular feature in the sports competitions run under International Federation rules. Sports officials are also still ignorant to the simple changes that can be made to enable Deaf athletes to respond when play is stopped. Thus, the Deaflympics are necessary in order to teach the IOC and sport what is required to become inclusive.

The Deaflympics are necessarily  important for society because the development of an elite athlete is similar to the career development of every employee of working age and there are two areas that need attention in order to progress, succeed and get promoted. The first area is the development and practice of skills and activity of the job itself, this has to be done in the most efficient and effective way possible. The second area is the continuing professional development, socializing and networking that enables the worker/athlete to take on more information, insights and confidence to develop their skills and activity area further.

Helen’s experience as a student in an elite academic environment mirror the same difficulties facing Deaf athletes who work hard to function in the elite sporting environment. Like Helen, their brains have to work overtime to fill in the gaps so they can understand the complex information that their coaches are conveying. So much brain-power is used, just keeping up with the coaches and other support staff that assistive technology and resources or changes in behavior and working practices are required.

The sports environment is still very much like the pub scenario described by Helen. She is amongst fellow elite students but she feels useless, all she can do is watch people lips move because it is impossible to understand every word despite being skilled at lip-reading. The ability to contribute is an important measure of a persons worth to others.

The Deaflympic pathway is necessary because it is an untapped source of Olympic talent that has only been utilised by a very small minority ( Terence Parkin, Dean Barton-Smith ) to balance out or springboard up to the next level of elitism. Unfortunately, governments and national governing bodies are blinkered by the Olympic/Paralympic monopoly as the only pathway for disabled athletes. By doing this, they have marginalised elite deaf athletes to the back of the queue when it comes to access to the funding and resources required to succeed. I have covered the impact of this monopoly extensively in the book; Same Spirit Different Team.

The Deaflympics are really necessary because sport and physical activity are beneficial to people’s personal health, well-being and academic/economic efficiency. The same is obviously true for Deaf people, well, it was at one time, when educational systems based on Deaf schools fostered the adoption of active healthy lifestyles engineered through the school – community links that prevailed. Nowadays, that has all but disappeared. Deaf sport has been fragmented and in some localities obliterated into extinction.

The workplace is a stressful environment for everyone and it is possible find ‘release’ in sport and physical activity or other forms of recreation that takes our noses off the grind-stone and allow us to relax and recharge. But not so for Deaf people, the bolt-holes everyone takes for granted are still stressful environments for Deaf people and Helen’s involvement in Dancesport is a good illustration that sport is the ‘happy place’ we can all escape to and ‘forget our cares and lose ourselves’.

Like Helen, all Deaf people seek out the benefits of sport within the mainstream environment, in the local clubs and facilities that are close to hand. But as we saw in the video, the acoustic environment of sport does not lend itself well to effective listening and communication. The interviewer in the video asks Helen “When do you hear? – When do you hear about the results?”. Helen answers “I think I am going to be very happy with it. I’ll be very happy with whatever they say”. Realizing that Helen had not understood the question, the interviewer patiently tries again “Do you know when you hear?” and Helen was able to answer the original question, thus contributing effectively.

The important point to consider here is that this was a one off situation in the relatively short relationship between the interviewer and Helen that lasted for the duration that the film was made. But this occurs more often in the daily relationship between Deaf and hard of hearing people and their hearing friends, colleagues and family members. This scenario repeats itself time and time again, people lose patience and draw away and stop communicating with deaf athletes because it becomes burdensome. I once came across a declaration made by a hearing person that you can invite your Deaf friend to a party once, but only once because the situation with communication was too awkward.

In the film, Helen’s parents are supporting her at the dance competition. Whether or not this is a usual occurrence is irrelevant but their presence serves to answer another point about the support structures that elite athletes need and how this can be found in the Deaflympics. There was someone in the sporting environment that was able to communicate more effectively with Helen as a competitor and provide her with the stress-free interactions that enable the athlete to stay calm and composed under pressure.

If we do eventually succeed in persuading the IOC and sport to recognise and support the Deaflympic pathway correctly, the majority of athletes in the Summer and Winter Deaflympic will still not reach the pinnacle of the Olympics, but they will at best have been given the opportunity to reach their potential. This is true in the case of Rajeev Bagga, five-time Deaflympic badminton gold medalist. Bagga never reached the Olympics, but he did compete in the Commonwealth Games and other world –ranking events. Now retired from the Deaflympics, he still competes internationally in mainstream Masters badminton for England and is now sharing his knowledge and experience with Deaf and hearing people as a badminton coach through opportunities that have been created by Sport England recognizing the key strategic importance of UK Deaf Sport, the British representative of the Deaflympic movement and its network of sports opportunities offered by third sector deaf organisations and their partnerships with national governing bodies and other providers of physical activity. We are only just starting to get there.

We can argue that some political decisions that were made in the late 1980s and early 1990s by the leadership of the Olympic, Deaflympic and Paralympic movements have denied Bagga the opportunity to compete at the Olympics. The International Committee of Sport for the Deaf and Deaf sport needs to learn from this and move forwards. Deaf sport needs to teach society that the Deaflympics are necessary and have much to offer non-deaf people in return.

If you want to know what those benefits are right now or need further information on the politics that have shaped Deaf sport into what it has become today, read Same Spirit Different Team, the latest book on the Deaflympic games.

Thank you to Helen for sharing her experiences with us.

 

PE and Deaf children

Hello Readers,

Your Sign Language version here.

Lord Moynihan, outgoing Chair of  British Olympic Association is worried that poor quality PE lessons, lack of space on timetables means that a failure to provide “a ladder of opportunity” for children will lead to an increasingly wide gap to standards between state and independent schools.

Two Big Ears is concerned that this means a ‘double whammy’ of lost opportunity for deaf children in schools.

Moynihan says that primary school children are being taught PE by teachers who lack the expertise to deliver the subject because most primary teachers receive just six hours of training in sport at university or college. Two Big Ears would add that that means there is very little training to make teachers aware of the needs of deaf children in their classes. Two Big Ears suggests that schools should do more to link up with local community providers to help them deliver appropriate activity. Teachers of the Deaf are usually English and language specialist and very rarely have any skills or training towards PE or after-school sport, working with the local community will be of benefit to them.

Moynihan wants to see a greater range of activity such as dance to inspire children turned off by traditional team games. Deaf children would be further marginalised by this. We need to see an emphasis on accessible activities that are inclusive and are activities that children can continue with at home with siblings, friends and family. The fundamentals of physical exercise should be nurtured.

Lord Moynihan said the nation is failing to “identify and provide a ladder of opportunity and performance pathways for outstandingly talented kids in the state sector”

Deaf children at primary and secondary mainstream schools are marginalised from after-school clubs and activities because many of them are bussed or taxied to school and the transport service providers are not flexible enough to accommodate this. The problem lies with Local Education Authority budgets not enabling such resources to be used more flexibly. Deaf children who have talent will be missing out.

Schools need to welcome the support of specialist organisations in the community who can come in and work with staff and pupils to enable them to become aware of the sporting pathways and opportunities that exist NEARER to home instead of at school. This information also needs to reach parents of deaf children so that they can help in this process.

Over 90% of deaf children are educated in their ‘local’ mainstream school and will not be aware of sporting pathways available to them. Visits to every school at least once a year by organisations such as UK Deaf Sport or one of its many National Deaf Sports Organisations would help to bridge the gaps in knowledge, not just for deaf children but for all.

If you are concerned about what you read and would like to contribute your ideas, time or support in any other way, please contact Bryan Whalley  bdwhalley@o2.co.uk  Chair of the UK Deaf Sport sub-committee on PE & School Sport for Deaf children. This committee meets three or four times a year to feed information up to the decision makers at the Youth Sports Trust and also acts as a hub of information for PE staff, teachers, classroom assistants and parents worried about deaf children’s lack of opportunity in PE.

Sports Survey for Black & Ethnic Minority Deaf people in the UK.

20th September 2012

Hello Readers!

It has been six days since our last post and Two Big Ears has been working hard dealing with a range of other potentially interesting posts to share with you. There are so many important topics to discuss, it is difficult to decide where to start next.

So, whilst we are still working away on some new posts, Two Big Ears would like you to help two excellent organisations here in the UK.

Action Deafness, in Leicester UK and Sporting Equals UK are collaborating on a research project into Black and Ethnic minority Deaf people and sport. Now unfortunately, at the moment, this research is only for UK residents.

However, my friends at Action Deafness will be very happy to share the results of the research with us when it is ready and perhaps we can all learn something from it.

I would like to see how powerful the internet is for Deaf people and how well we can reach people to fill in this form. If you are not a member of a Black or Ethnic minority in the UK, please pass it on to the right Deaf people and ask them to help out.

The questionnaire can be downloaded NOW, please send it back to the researchers by email and let them know you saw it on Two Big Ears!

Why should Society Recognise and respect the Deaflympics?

On Friday Two Big Ears promised to answer the question ‘Why should society recognise and respect the Deaflympics?”

In tonights post, Two Big Ears will demonstrate that the Deaflympics are worthy of its equal standing to the Paralympics by using the concepts of “Deaf Gain” and the Social and Medical Models of Disability and the benefits of elite disability sport.

Commentators and spectators alike are suggesting that the Paralympics is re-defining the term ‘disability’ and therefore justifying a sociological impact of sport. The Deaflympics are also capable of doing this.

First some short definitions:

“Social Model of Disability”  The social model of disability identifies systemic barriers, negative attitudes and exclusion by society (purposely or inadvertently) – society is the main contributing factor in disabling people.

“Medical Model of Disability” The medical model of disability focusses on the individuals limitations and ways to reduce those impairments or using adaptive technology to adapt them to society.

“Deaf Gain” is defined as a reframing of ‘deaf‘ as a form of sensory and cognitive diversity that has the potential to contribute to the greater good of humanity. There are several concepts within Deaf Gain, including; Deaf Increase – the opposite of hearing loss, emphasising that Deaf people have something of importance. Deaf benefit – deafness is a benefit as well as a loss. Deaf contribute – all the ways deaf people contrinbute to humankind

Between 1988 and 1993, the ICSD became a member of the IPC to try and find a way to assimilate into the Paralympics. Unfortunately, through the social model of disability the process identified systemic barriers created by the need for interpreters and the costs of this.  When I was interviewed by BBC Newshour yesterday, the presenter challenged the issue “But surely, these days the costs of providing funds to give paralympians specially designed wheelchairs, limbs , equipment and so on must far outweigh the costs of providing sign language interpreters – (in order to allow Deaflympians into the Paralympics)?” A mute point up for discussion between IPC and ICSD

In 1924, the founders of the Silent Games were looking for ways to empower deaf people though the Olympic ideals of Cubertin. Using the power of an international muli-sports competition for the greater good. The motto at the 2009 Taipei Deaflympics was “Power in Me” (The Chinese literal translation was “The Power of Silence”) it empowered both the deaf and the hearing to come together and learn about sign language. The Deaflympics brought a benefit to the Taiwanese hosts to enable them to provide a service to visiting athletes and supporters. The LOC of the games was a mixed team of deaf and hearing people in order to empower everyone and give them an opportunity that would ordinarily be denied.

In the context of Deaf Gain, Deaflympic athletes and coaches should be valued by society because they have something to contribute. Hearing coaches and athletes can pick up new ways of learning and interacting with their sports environment in order to improve performance. One example I have read is an occasion where the Swiss national junior snowboard team hired a coach who was deaf. “The coach realised that the snowboarders were listening to the sound of the board cutting into snow so they could work out if they were making the quickest stops and sharpest turns possible.  The coach was not satisfied with this reliance on auditory cues and made his athletes wear ear-plus during training. Deprived of their usual sensory feedback, the snowboarders initially felt out of their element, but the earplugs forced them to learn to depend on the feel of the snow beneath their boards. Eventually the athlete’s performances improved markedly.”

The Deaflympic are a great forum for “transnationalism” through gesture and sign language. A model of human interaction in a globalised world. Deaflympians are able to interact and communicate with each other across linguistic boundaries immediately. Therefore, in comparison, Olympians and Paralympians have to find a common spoken language before they can communicate successfully.

This week, Tom Smith, a deaf cyclist from Wales is competing in the European Deaf Cycling championships. Tom is not a native sign language user, he has been educated using the oral tradition. His tweets from Russia this week illustrate transnationalism. “Sign language improving. Alphabet similar to ASL. Just keep forgetting f & g ha ha!….. After the race, stood around talking to Russians, Belgians, French, Germans, Austrians, six nationalities including me – one language. How cool is that!”

By comparison, in the book “Sky’s the Limit” there is a description of a daily routine of GB cycling academy which at the time, was 3 hours road work, one hour lunch, 3 hours French then 3 hours track work. They needed to learn French so that they could live and work on mainland europe where French is a dominant language for cycling teams and training environments.

Olympians and Paralympians have a lot to gain from the valuable contributions that Deaflympians bring to human communication.

The article I  have read on ‘Deaf Gain’ concludes with the potential impact of this concept.

“For most parents, the concept of a deaf baby conjures up anxious thoughts of isolation, limited communication and myriad other difficulties for their child. But that is the old frame. The new frame, the frame of Deaf Gain, sees the baby not as a problem but as an asset. A family with a deaf baby benefits by being exposed to a new language and culture and to new people, ideas and experiences. A deaf baby is value added to a family, but the contribution benefits not only the family but general society as well. Every deaf baby born on this planet is a gift to humankind.”

In a world where the Deaflympics is recognised and valued, the above vision of a deaf baby in a hearing family could be translated to a local level in sport. At the moment, to most coaches and athletes, the concept of a deaf athlete/teammate conjures up “anxious thoughts of isolation, limited communication and a myriad of other difficulties”. But through Deaf Gain, the team can see the deaf athlete as an “asset”. A team with a deaf player benefits by being “exposed to a new language and culture and to new ideas and experience”. Value the Deaflympics and it will become a gift to sport and humankind in the same way that the Olympic and Paralympics have inspired a generation this summer.

Two Big Ears was originally planning to stop his campaign when he Paralympic flame was extinguished. But it has been decided to continue as they are some much more to learn about deaf sport. Only by keeping the Deaflympics and the forefront of society’s conscious might we see a “fair deal” for Deaflympians.

Two Big Ears will be blogging twice a week. so please watch out for future posts.

If you like what you are reading here and wish to keep up with other discussions on the subject, you are welcome to visit the UK Deaf Sport group on LinkedIn for professional discussions.

Why are Deaflympians treated so Differently? Part 3

BSL VERSION COMING SOON!

On Wednesday, Two Big Ears looked at how the 21st century media uses 19th century freak show structures, stories and techniques to market the Paralympics and why this is having a negative impact on Deaf sport because Deafness is a hidden disability.

Tonight, (or through the early hours of Friday!) Two Big Ears is going to re-write history by describing what philosophies influenced the people who created the “Silent Games” in 1924 and the “Stoke Mandeville Games” of 1948 and the way that these ideas have been recorded in history, influences the way people treat Deaflympians differently today.

First of all, we look at what inspired Eugene Rubens – Alcais, a Deaf car mechanic and competitive cyclist from Paris to dream up the first international multi-sports event for disabled people in 1924

He drew his courage from Pierre de Coubertin the French aristocrat who in the late 19th century promoted the benefits of athletics and organised the modern Athens Olympics in 1896. Coubertin wanted to introduce PE to French schools. He believed that his countrymen were easily defeated in war because they did not take fitness seriously enough. He travelled the world to study different methods of teaching:

“What Coubertin saw on the playing fields of Rugby and the other English schools he visited was how “organised sport can create moral and social strength”. Not only did organised games help to set the mind and body in equilibrium, it also prevented the time being wasted in other ways. First developed by the ancient Greeks, it was an approach to education that he felt the rest of the world had forgotten and to whose revival he was to dedicate the rest of his life. (Wikipedia)

Eugene Rubens- Alcais was born in 1884 and grew up in a time when “societies everywhere viewed deaf people as intellectually inferior, linguistically impoverished and often treated as outcast”. He became a prominent member of the French Deaf community, led the Paris Sports Club for Deaf Mutes and became President of the French Deaf Mute Sports Federation. Inspired by Coubertin’s ideas of the Olympics and together with the help of a young Belgian named Antoine Dresse, they created the idea of the international “Silent Games” as a way of challenging the oppression towards deaf people at that time. They used “Olympic ideals” to give the deaf communities around the world the “moral and social strength” to help each other and improve their place in society. Self-empowerment and forbearers of the “Social Model of Disability”.

Eugene and Antoine timed the “Silent Games” to be held in Paris two weeks after the 1924 Paris Olympics to gain maximum possible exposure. The “Silent Games” were modelled on the Olympics and despite what the IPC want everyone to believe today, it is the “Silent Games” that were the first international games ever for any group of people with disabilities. “The games immediately became the social context for countries to deliberate about similarities and differences in the welfare of their deaf people and afterwards, the deaf sporting leaders assembled at a café in Paris and established Le Comite International des Sports Silencieux (CISS) which was later named ICSD; The International Committee of Sports for the Deaf.”

Not surprisingly, Eugene earned the nickname the ‘deaf baron de Coubertin

In the last year of the 19th century, Ludwig “Poppa” Guttman was born in Germany and rose to become an eminent doctor. He fled Jewish persecution in Nazi Germany and came to England to work at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

Ludwig grew up during the “Jewish Revival” which included the use of physical training and sport as an expression of new Jewish self-confidence and a way for the Jews to integrate into a non-Jewish environment. Is this pretty much what Eugene Rubens- Alcais was attempting to do for deaf people to live in a non-deaf environment ?

It has been assumed that Ludwig’s involvement in sport as a youth would have influenced his later ideas for using sport to rehabilitate his spinal-injury patients and their reintegration into normal life. He came up with the idea of the first Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948 to coincide with Opening Day of the London Olympics of that year, 24 years after the international “Silent Games”

WHO SHOULD HAVE THE RECOGNITION ?

At this point, Two Big Ears would like to re-write history correctly, contrary to what The Spinal Injuries Clinic at Stoke Mandeville claim. Ludwig Guttman was not one of the founding fathers of organised physical activity for people with a disability. That honour goes to Eugene Rubens-Alcais with the support from Antoine Dresse.

Eugene Rubens-Alcais is described by his peers as “a man of modest habits who lived in a sparsely furnished and simple attic apartment, a mansard, while he passionately pursued his vision he gave all his time and what he had in working for deaf people and deaf sports.” Another account is “he always lived in relative poverty and died in 1963. His activities did not enrich him (financially) and is a motive furthermore to honour his memory.”

Ludwig Guttman in comparison was a ‘hearing’ person and rose to become an eminent British neurologist, awarded the OBE, CBE and was knighted in 1966.

Two Big Ears requests that British “hearing” society retracts its claim to have ‘invented disability sport’ through their adopted Dr “Poppa” Guttman and we should give due regard and respect with a posthumous honorary award to the earlier achievements of the Frenchman and the Belgian who got there first. Furthermore, a BBC Sports Personality Award should be given to the Deaf Club in Glasgow who 140 years ago, established the first deaf football club in the world in 1871-72.

The Deaflympics is a “silent” deaf voice in a hearing community inspired by “louder” Olympic and Paralympic “hearing” voices. It is time for the majority to listen and accept and properly honour the truth and support its Deaflympians on equal terms with Paralympians. Two Big Ears is not suggesting a merger of the two movements – he will share his ideas in a later blog.

On Monday Two Big Ears will answer the question ‘Why should society recognise and respect the Deaflympics?” Two Big ears will demonstrate that the event is worthy of its equal standing to the Paralympics by using the concepts of “Deaf Gain” and the Social and Medical Models of Disability and the benefits of elite disability sport.

Two Big Ears is now taking a well-earned rest to visit family ‘up north’ and enjoy what promises to be a fantastic finale and Closing Ceremony for the 2012 Paralympics. We will have a light-hearted break from all this heavy philosophical stuff with some weekend-banter and pictures of those who are supporting Two Big Ears.

Goodnight

YOUR BSL VERSION WILL BE HERE SOON