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Mia Farrow

Mia Farrow

Posted: April 17, 2008 03:50 PM

Why Flunk the International Olympic Committee?


The dictionary definition of "fail" is "the omission of expected or required action."

I am torn as to whether to discuss the failure of moral leadership by the IOC, or the phenomenon of low expectations.

The Dream for Darfur IOC Report Card documents how the IOC has shirked the messy and difficult business of the genocide in Darfur. Yet the IOC, whose headquarters sit safely in the lovely Swiss town of Lausanne, could have done so much. It has contacts at the United Nations. It has a special Olympic Truce in its own charter which promotes "respect for universal fundamental ethical principles". The IOC enjoys relationships with Olympic corporate sponsors worldwide, including some of the most powerful companies on the globe. Further, the IOC has
a network of 200 national Olympic Committees -- each boasting prominent members. The IOC has young athletes at its beck and call, role models and potential spokespeople for humanitarian causes. And above all, the IOC has the Olympic Games. This is an organization with global reach, and great potential power.

The crisis in Darfur is, after all, a genocide being underwritten by the IOC's chosen Olympic host. What have they done to end the first genocide of the 21st century? Nothing, despite the fact that when it awarded the Games to China seven years ago, the world knew then that there would be human rights issues to confront now. The IOC has had nearly a decade to plan for human rights contingencies.

But when I traveled to Switzerland to discuss with them what they might do to help bring peace to Darfur, they did not offer a single idea. They did not have a clue.

We could chalk up the IOC's lack of response to genocide to cynicism. Or laziness. And maybe both are true. The Report Card describes the IOC with the word "inept".

But I'd also say the IOC's indifference is also the mark of smallness. Of small minds, seeking to protect their turf. The Committee's reaction to what the United Nations has called "atrocities of the worst kind" is the antithesis of what draws people to the Olympic Games. What drives the athletes to do their personal best, beyond simple fame, is that whisper in their hearts that an already incredible record can be beat, and that they are the ones to do it. The IOC has
reduced its own glorious mission, this idealism and love of humanity that exudes from the Olympic Charter. The IOC is shrinking its own mandate. They have rejected their humanitarian mission; surely they don't take it seriously if their response to the anguish in Darfur is to go to a refugee camp to distribute t-shirts. Their response is the opposite of a great athlete's courage, optimism and against-all-odds belief in the impossible.

At the outset of the Dream for Darfur campaign, I was hopeful that the International Olympic Committee could be moved to action. Many people told us not to expect much, that the IOC would play both sides of the game, acting politically while claiming to be apolitical. They were right.

The Beijing Olympics is already tarnished by China's multiple human rights violations. We are sad to call this event the Genocide Olympics. But it makes me sadder still that for the children of Darfur, survival itself is a challenge -- of Olympic proportions.

The IOC has let us down. But we are not stopping our advocacy. When August 8th arrives, and the Games begin, hopefully with no major political leaders in attendance at the opening ceremonies, I will be in Chad, broadcasting images of Darfur from one of the refugee camps.
The International Olympic Committee is going about business as usual with China, while the Chinese-supported atrocities in Darfur continue. I'd call that a dismal performance, and a dispiriting belittling of what could be a great institution.

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