Deaf Sports Events29th March 2015

18th Winter Deaflympics Get Underway Without GB Athletes

A spectacle for Deaf communities around the world, Deaflympics available on-line in the UK

by Sarah Lawrence

With words of support for their own Deaf athletes from President Putin and other national leaders, I watched the world’s best Deaf Winter Sports stars taking part in the opening ceremony of the 2015 Deaflympics yesterday. As I delighted in the highly visual and entertaining ceremony that was underpinned by thought and consideration to a Deaf as well as hearing audience. I wondered whether the UK leaders - Cameron, Clegg and Miliband even knew the 18th Winter Deaflymics were getting under way. Even if they did, the only reaction I could suggest to them to recognise the start of this wonderful historic games, is to hang their head in shame, with not one single British athlete taking part.

Pulled together quickly following a decision by the International Committee of Sport for the Deaf to hold the 2015 Winter Deaflympics in Khanty-Mansiysk and Magnitogorsk in Russia, it looks like the organisers have done brilliantly. Athletes will compete for Deaflympic medals from the 28th March to 5th April in the sporting disciplines of alpine-skiing, curling, cross-country skiing, snowboard, and ice-hockey.

I couldn’t of course watch the opening ceremony or any of the events on any of the multiple television channels we now have available to us, my viewing is limited to on-line, but I am so pleased I was able to do that. I suppose we are just lucky that the political and sporting governments of some countries give far more support to the Deaflympics than the decision makers in the UK.

Even on-line, there were captions available in different languages. Once the ceremony started it was all very visual within the stadium, added to by all the athletes in their smart gear, proudly representing their country. If only the UK’s own Deaf community enjoyed the same support to open up sporting opportunities for our Deaf youngsters and provide them the same sporting excellence as other Deaf athletes around the world.

How and why did we become a third world state when it comes to our participation in the Deaflympics?

It was good to see the collaboration by all the groups involved in putting the games on, just to make this possible, and to give Deaf athletes the opportunity to compete on level terms with athletes from across the world.

As I sat and watched, I found myself thinking about the funding that is made available for the Paralympics and Olympics and why just a tiny fraction of that funding is invested in Deaf sport in the UK. I wondered what the justification was for significant support to be given to an athlete who is blind for example, but for no support to being provided to an equally talented athlete who is Deaf. It is not like that in many other countries, so I suppose that says something about the mindset of the political elite in ‘great’ Britain when it comes to Deaf people.

We all know how financially supportive Russia and other East European countries are to their deaf sports stars so I took the opportunity to ask Canadian Arista Haas, a Committee member of World Deaf Golf for her thoughts on the Winter Deaflympics.

“From what I see, the collaboration between the Russian government, the city officials, and the ICSD is being well done and the Deaflympics is well done”, she told me. “It is nice to see the IOC and the UN leaders commend the ICSD on their efforts on hosting the 18th Winter Deaflympics.”

“I cannot speak for the Canadian athletes, but I can tell you this based on my observations in the social media -- the Canucks are very much looking forward to this event and do Canada proud. This will be a bittersweet experience for them since a few athletes were not able to celebrate the Deaflympic spirit with them due to unforeseen and tragic circumstances.”

I hope to catch a fair bit of the competition during my on-line viewing, I know I will enjoy it. I have been brought up on the Deaflympics and as a Deaf woman, I am proud of its long and distinguished history. British athletes and teams have graced the Deaflympics in the past and I still harbour hopes that future political and sporting leaders will do all they can to support Deaf athletes, not just support those sports that are favoured for media coverage in the UK. 

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Deaf Sport / Deaf Sports Events

29th March 2015