The Comm and Gender Spot

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

New Hosts but Old Prejudices

We are currently 65 days from the Opening Ceremonies of the 29th Summer Games emanating from Beijing, China. I for one am excited and can’t wait to see these ceremonies as they are broadcast on NBC on August 8, 2008.

I love when a nation that has never been allowed to hold an Olympic Games before gets the opportunity. I’m curious to see what kind of a spin they put on it, including what they do with the pomp and circumstance of the opening and closing ceremonies. While this hasn’t happened very often in my lifetime, I do remember the games held in Seoul and Barcelona thinking how wonderful it was that these countries and its citizens finally had the opportunity to host the biggest sporting event on the calendar. While I get the similar feelings when a city gets to host that hasn’t hosted before, when a country hosts that has never had the opportunity before it truly seems almost magical.

And when following the bidding process I’m always rooting for that underdog country to break through so that they can host their first Games. While they don’t always have the most feasible bid, I still think that given the opportunity most of these countries could step up to the plate and make a wonderful spectacle of their hosting. In looking at the bids for the 2016 Summer Games, which will be decided on October 2, 2009, While as an American I can’t wait for another Games to occur on U.S. soil so that I may have the opportunity to attend, I can’t help but hope that the Games goes to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil or to Doha, Qatar. Not only would this be the first opportunity for the Games to be held in their country but it would be the first time that any Olympic Games were held in South America or Africa.

With that being said, and acknowledging the excitement that I have for the upcoming Games in Beijing, the first ever in China, I am disheartened by some of the materials that have been put forth for the volunteers that will be working at the Games. More specifically, the language that they use to instruct their volunteers about how to handle encounters with athletes during the Paralympic Games which immediately following the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Here are some translated excerpts from these manuals, as taken from an article on

First they label the paralympic athletes and disabled fans as a “special group” The manual states that they have “unique personalities and ways of thinking.” This statement alone is enough to make someone realize that their descriptions of these athletes will not be positive.

The manual suggests that though athletes who are blind are “introverted. They have deep and implicit feelings and seldom show strong emotions.”

In discussing physically disabled individuals, the manual states that these individuals “are often mentally healthy. They show no differences in sensation, reaction, memorization, and thinking mechanisms from other people, but they might have unusual personalities because of disfigurement and disability.” These individuals are labeled as being “isolated, unsocial, and introspective. They usually do not volunteer to contact people. They can be stubborn and controlling. They may be sensitive and struggle with trust issues.”

Volunteers are also instructed to not “stare at their disfigurement.”

Then, apart of this manual, the Beijing Organizing Committee set forth some rules of conduct and policies about who will be allowed to attend the Games. Barred are individuals who have contagious diseases and those who have “mental diseases.” The problem with this is that they do not specify what kinds of diseases to which they are referring.

While I am excited about having the Games in China, I only wish that they showed more tolerance and understanding. While I would hope that having such a rich international presence in their country might cause some change to occur, I unfortunately do not believe that it will have any long lasting effects.

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