ICSD Under pressure to take action against the invasion of Ukraine.

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National Federations of Deaf sport are pleading with the ICSD Board to take action against its Russian and Belarusian members. Appeals have also gone out to support Ukrainian athletes.

Yesterday, 3rd March and overnight, after a request for support from the Ukraine Deaf Sports Federation, letters have been sent to the ICSD from national and regional associations including EDSO, Great Britain, Nordic Baltic Federation ( Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden,), Poland and Taiwan urging the ICSD to impose a ban on Russia and Belarus.

Gustavo Perazzolo, ICSD, under pressure to ban Russia and Belarus from international competitions.

Despite condemnation of the invasion from the World Federation of the Deaf, close bonds of the Deaf sports community have been highlighted in expressions of regret that the athletes of Russia and Belarus have to suffer for the actions their governments and heads of state. Lebannon requested that ban should not go ahead because:

“We believe that we should separate the political situations of the world and the sports athletes. it is in our opinion that it is entirely not fair to blame the Russian Deaf athlete for what is happening in Ukraine; the problem is to do with the Russian Government.” (Lebanese Federation of the Deaf)

The ICCD, International Chess Committee of the Deaf, explained why sanctions have to be imposed:

“The Russian and Belarusian deaf athletes have nothing to do with the Kremlin’s decision yet they are tarred with the same brush and face severe consequences. ICCD finds this extremely sad for politics have gotten in the way of deaf sport where there is strong unity between deaf sportsmen. Yet this has to be actioned for the ICSD cannot be exempt from IOC and other sporting authorities.” (ICCD)

Ivan Kulakov, Executive Sport Director of Ukraine Deaf Sport Federation has been sending thanks to those who have shown their support:

“Very grateful for your support for the sanctioning of the occupying countries for the ICSD. We believe that the global deaf community will come to the right conclusion about stopping the war. Sport is a competition between peaceful nations!” (UDSF)

Logo of the Ukraine Deaf Sport Federation

The U-turn of the IPC yesterday to ban Russia and Belarus from the Winter Paralympics was largely a result of pressure from athletes already in the Paralympic village. The ICCD have warned the ICSD not to ignore the situation:

“The ICSD should take into account the Ukraine Deaf Sports Federation’s depleted preparation for the Deaflympics and other major sporting events (chess included). Furthermore, it may seem unlikely that Ukraine will be represented at the Deaflympics; if that is the case, then it would reflect badly on ICSD of both Russia and Belarus are allowed to participate. The would cause uproar from the other ICSD countries.”

The impact on international deaf sport events is already being felt. the European Chess Championships at Cordoba in Spain has been relying on a large number of players from Russia and Ukraine and has now been ‘thrown into chaos’ according to ICCD.

As we wrote earlier this week, Canada is hosting the World Deaf Curling in Banff, Alberta. According to announcements, the Ukrainian curlers have had their entry visas approved and are now on their way to Warsaw to collect he visas and fly out from there. Both the Canadian and Alberta Deaf Sports Associations have agreed to sponsor the expenses of the Ukrainians and they are appealing for donations to support this fund. Any donations can be made by contacting info@albertadeafsports.ca

How will ICSD now follow the IPC and IOC decision making?

Today the IPC announced that Russia and Belarus can compete at the Winter Paralympics as neutral athletes. Whilst no decisions or statements have been made by the Brazilian and Russian-led ICSD. It is anyone guess which way they will move.

In a statement today, the International Paralympic Committee have announced that the RPC and NPC Belarus will participate as neutrals at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. They will compete under the Paralympic flag and not be included in the medal table.

The IPC will host an Extraordinary General Assembly in 2022 “to vote on whether to make compliance with the Olympic Truce a membership requirement and whether to suspend or terminate membership of the Russian and Belarus Paralympic Committees”.

The IPC will not hold any events in Russia or Belarus until further notice.

The ICSD has yet to make a statement, its CEO and staff are Russian, based in Moscow and the registered office is in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The ICSD and IPC presidents are both Brazilian and it is quite possible that ICSD’s Gustavo may follow Andrew Parsons (IPC) and be influenced by the ICSD CEO to go gentle on Russia and Belarus. Brazil are due to host the 2022 Summer Deaflympics in May.

Alisher Usmanov has stepped down as President of the International Fencing Federation, after the European Union imposed economic sanctions on him over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The World Curling Federation has removed the European Championships from Russia. World Athletics, FIFA and International Biathlon Union are amongst sports who have imposed bans.

The global Deaf community has been vocal about the invasion of Ukraine, the World Athletics and Federation of the Deaf has shown its solidarity and support to the Ukraine Federation of the Deaf.

Helga Stevens, former European Member of Parliament commented on social media that she is curious to see what ICSD will do after the world of sport has joined forces to stand by Ukraine. She hopes that ICSD will follow the examples set by the IOC and IPC.

As far as we can see, as we go to press, there have been no statements or decision making from any of the ICSD regional federations, their national members nor associate members.

Comments have been made on social media that the ICSD has been removing comments and posts that mention the invasion on Ukraine.

Will ICSD listen to the request of the IOC?

The International Olympic Committee have asked all International sports federations to stop flying the flags of Russia and Belarus at sporting events.

Federations are being asked to cancel all planned sports events in Russia and Belarus or move them to alternative venues..

Leading figures have condemned the attack by Russia and are offering their support to members of the sporting communities in Ukraine.

The European Union governments are uniting in their condemnation and placing sanctions on key people and organisations in Russia and Belarus. As the representative of ICSD in Europe, the EDSO have yet to show their hand.

The ICSD is an international Federation. Will they comply?

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 here.

 

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

Who said we were Paralympians?

Ian Herbert of The Independent has come up with his own alternative of the BBC Sports personality of the Year Award.

Whilst he has correctly and justifiably recognised the courageous and inspiring exploits of Gerry Hughes and his solo-circumnavigation of the globe this year he has unfortunately succumbed to the urban myth that Gerry is a Paralympic athlete.

The Deaf community knows that this is the incorrect title because there is no category for Deaf athletes in the Paralympics and that the Deaflympics are recognised by the IOC and the IPC as the equivalent event to the Paralympics.

So why does the media continue to make the same mistake over and over? One of the reasons for this is that the IOC and the IPC have a monopoly on ‘Disability Sport’ that gave birth to the urban myth of Deaf sport and the Paralympics in the ‘early days’ when they self-appointed themselves as guardians of all sport for disabled people. Over the last couple of decades, when the media has incorrectly attributed Deaf athletes to the Paralympics, nobody has corrected them.

Whose fault is that? Who should be scanning the media to make sure that the urban myth is not given life-blood? Should it be the ICSD and its national representatives? The problem is – resources – and motivation. Firstly, the IOC has been supporting the IPC with millions of dollars each year to enable them to appoint staff and promote the Paralympics. the ICSD cannot compete with this because the IOC who, for some unknown reason has decided that despite recognising the Deaflympics as an event as equal in stature to the Paralympics only provides a very small amount of funds.

The second problem for this, partly lies at the door of Deaf sport itself because its own motivation has been to continue to declare that Deaf people are not disabled. When the IPC was established, it was done so to govern disability sport under the IOC. The CISS agreed be a founder of the IPC on condition that it was able to continue to organise the World Games for the Deaf, which at the time was recognised as an Olympic -status event by the IOC. Almost immediately,  national organisations began to create problems for Deaf sport by not recognising the World games for the Deaf. The  motivation behind the establishment of the IPC for the majority of its members, was to get the fledgling Paralympics accepted by the IOC. They saw it as essential that the CISS should join them to give their cause credence.

For a few short years, the IPC was the governor of ‘disability sport’. But noting was done at the beginning to make sure that people respected the status of the World games for the Deaf and as a consequence the CISS and now the ICSD has been struggling.

In retrospect, when it withdrew from the IPC, the CISS should have insisted that the IOC and IPC make a declaration that the IPC was no longer the overall governor of Disability Sport, things might have turned out differently. Eventually, the IPC dropped the ‘disabled governance’ mantle and now correctly declare themselves to be the ‘global governing body of the Paralympic Movement”.

But this message has not been getting through to the media and the public at large. Deaf sport needs volunteers to come forwards and help to raise the media profile of the Deaflympic Movement.

If you are media savvy, media motivated and want to make a contribution to society – please get in touch with me at UK Deaf Sport as we really could do with your help to raise the media profile of the Deaflympic Movement here in the UK and overseas.

Ooops! I have made a mistake ! We not allowed to use derivatives of the word Deaflympic (Deaflympic Movement, Deaflympian, National Deaflympic Committee etc). The IOC only allows us to use the term Deaflympic in the title of the event itself…

That is why Ian Herbert should recognise Gerry Hughes as “The Disabled Sports Personality of 2013”