I've taken offense to Charles Lane’s May 22, editorial titled, “Stop Playing with Integrity of Olympics,” that indicts the Olympic movement.
Lane’s ignorance of the overall value and scope of the Olympic movement leads to a one-sided argument that preys on the worst case scenario associated with the Olympic Games, rather that the good that is done within the Olympic movement.
The reality that Lane’ ignores, or is unaware of, is that the true Olympic movement is what occurs during the four years between each of the Olympic games, rather than the games themselves. The games are supposed to be a celebration of the “harmonious development of human kind” that occurs in between, and unfortunately it's the actions of the member nations who bring shame onto the high ideals that Pierre de Coubertin championed.
For the past eight years my colleague Jeff Schneider and I have contributed to the Olympic movement in leading the International Coaching Enrichment Certificate Program (IECEP) in partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee. The IOC and USOC have provided over $1 million over this time that has been used to develop coaches from 90 countries across five continents in 22 different sports. All of the participants in the program received IOC Olympic Solidarity scholarships that come from broadcast revenue from the Summer Olympic Games, as well as a stipend from US Olympic Committee.
Along with UD faculty and coaches, others who have contributed to the education of coaches have been the likes of Bob Bowman and Jay Wright, as well as too many others of the U.S. sport community to name.
While Lane wants to use corruption and performance enhancing drugs as his frame of reference for the Olympic movement, I would rather point to the willingness of U.S. coaches sharing their knowledge with their international peers, and the projects that have been implemented by ICECP graduates over the years as mine.
My reference includes a women’s boxing coach from Trinidad and Tobago who implemented the “Boxing Outside the Ring” program that promotes self-esteem, and teaches right hooks to young women to address the high rate of sexual and physical assaults against women in the country. The head coach of the men’s basketball national team in Sierra Leone initiated a talent identification plan that led to national team competing in the African Championships for the first time in over a decade because of civil war. The rowing coach from the Sudan established a regional rowing center on the Nile River that not only develops rowing, but promotes the use of sport to promote education to athletes and coaches from eastern African nations.
These are only three of the 200-plus programs implemented to grow sport in underdeveloped countries, that use sport to promote cooperation and cultural understanding around the world. The transgressions mentioned in Lane’s editorial are real, but they are the based on the decisions of the leaders and sport leaders of those countries, and should not be the reason to throw the entire Olympic movement under the bus.
I suggest Mr. Lane use the four years in between the games rather than the games themselves as a frame of reference next time. You may change your tune.
Dr. Matthew J. Robinson is the director of ICECP, and a professor of sport management at the University of Delaware.