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Let them swim

Dear Sir,

The following can be taken for the attention of the Bermuda Olympic Association.

“The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

Imagine how it must feel to dedicate your young life to a sport, to representing the country you grew up in, to being a role model and balancing all the other parts of life that are hard enough without that extra pressure. Imagine, then, a global pandemic constantly interrupting your training schedule and your competition schedule for well over a year, along with literally every other thing in life.

Just imagine having the guts to persevere, do what you can, work hard and keep at it— and somehow managing to continue breaking national records, winning awards, supporting team-mates, qualifying for high-level events. Working away at it to get so close despite it all, and being extended an invitation by the International Swimming Federation (recognised by the International Olympic Committee) to attend the one-year delayed 2020 Olympics.

Imagine seeing your competitors and friends be celebrated by their own countries’ Olympic association by accepting universality places with excitement and pride. Then imagine your own country’s association rejecting that offer and refusing to let you compete.

The association which says it aims to “encourage and generally stimulate interest and participation by residents of Bermuda in sport, at all levels, wherever possible”, among other objectives supporting Olympism and the development of high-performance sport.

What an abject slap in the face.

Especially for that association to insinuate that it only needs to send “those competitors adequately prepared for high-level international competition”— as if these young people have not competed extraordinarily well at countless high-level events on behalf of this country. To also maintain that it “cannot” approve participation of these athletes, when it is abundantly clear that it simply will not.

There is nothing lost by accepting, on behalf of your best and brightest male and female athletes in a given sport, a well-earned universality invitation from the IOC to compete.

And yet there is a hell of a lot to be lost by refusing the honour.

Believe me, contrary to some opinions I have seen online of late, this is not a “free ticket” or participation prize. It’s not a case where it should be said “ah, tough luck, you just weren’t fast enough” or “didn’t work hard enough”. These universality places have been instituted for a reason. If only those athletes that achieved A-standard qualifying times were sent to the Games, some countries would simply never have competitors — which is in direct opposition of one of the working principles of the Games ... to foster universal participation.

The Olympics is not just about making finals, or standing on the podium, although that is what most people associate it with. It is a mark of reaching a certain level in your athletic career, true. But what is it other than utter elitism to think that everyone in every country and every circumstance must be held to the same standard?

What a sad state the world has to be in, at the tailend of a truly insane year and a half, for an organisation to knowingly and repeatedly refuse the opportunity to honour the top athletes in their sport.

If the goal is to encourage participation and progression in sport for all, what purpose does any of this serve?



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Published June 25, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated June 25, 2021 at 9:35 am)

Let them swim

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