The Olympic Movement Belongs to Everyone
Jacques Rogge, 2008
In the Olympic Charter, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) states, “The Olympic Movement encompasses organisations, athletes and other persons who agree to be guided by the Olympic Charter. The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”
The practice of sport without discrimination suggests the Olympic Movement welcomes a diverse mix of athletes, including women, refugees, people of different faiths, ethnicities, races, sexual orientations, and abilities, including athletes with disabilities. We see athletes with disabilities take part in the Olympic Games, Paralympic Games, Special Olympics and the Deaflympics. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Special Olympics International (SOI) and the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD) are officially recognized organizations of the IOC.
Principle 6 of the Principles of Olympism in the Olympic Charter states that the “Olympic Charter shall be secured without discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” The reference to “or other status” can be interpreted as including athletes with disabilities competing in the Olympic Games as well as the athletes of the Paralympic Games, Special Olympics and Deaflympics. Given this interpretation, now is the time for the IOC to be more specific and direct in welcoming and including athletes with disabilities into Principle 6.
Given the recent successful movement to include sexual orientation in Principle 6, now is the time for the disability sport community and the general disability community to initiate a call to establish a more specific reference to disability within Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter. In addition, Recommendation 7 in the IOC’s strategic initiative Agenda 2020 states a desire to “Strengthen relationships with organizations managing sport for people with different abilities.” Formally including people with disabilities in the Olympic Charter would be a specific example of strengthening relationships to reinforce and amplify the roles and contributions of people with disabilities within the Olympic Movement.
This change would affirm the premise of Article 30.5 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that reinforces the right to sport and physical activity for people with disabilities. In addition, the newly revised UNESCO Charter on Physical Education, Sport and Physical Activity also clearly states the right to sport and physical activity for people with disabilities. These policies are in line with Principle 4 of the Principles of Olympism in the Olympic Charter that reads, “the practice of sport is a human right.” This momentum toward the inclusion and integration of people with disabilities in sport, culture and society reinforces the need to further legitimize and ensure the place of people with disabilities within the Olympic Charter and the Olympic Movement.
The Olympic rings represent the Olympic Movement. As a universal symbol, the rings represent all of us, including people with disabilities. We should honor and recognize the unity and synergy of this Olympic emblem relative to the Paralympic, Special Olympic and Deaflympic emblems. Hopefully the IOC, IPC, SOI and ICSD can all work together in solidarity to create a united and inclusive Olympic Movement that embraces everyone.
The time is now to build inclusive, peaceful, and healthy communities. This vision includes valuing people with and without disabilities working, living and playing together side by side. Similar to the process of advancement for inclusion in the areas of race, gender and sexual orientation within the Olympic Movement, people with and without disabilities must also bring voice and action to promote and advance disability inclusion in the realm of sport in all arenas, including the Olympic Charter and the Olympic Movement. We must continue to build bridges and facilitate unity in the ongoing efforts to advance the inclusion and integration of people with and without disabilities in sport and in society. Indeed, the Olympic Movement belongs to everyone.