Thursday, January 29, 2009

Losing the Right to Play

Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I'm kinda into sports. If you've payed attention, you also know I hope for nothing but the best for the world, and so, support many good-doing initiatives.

One of my favourite charities, understandably, is Right to Play. Sound familiar? Zdeno Chara just raised $24,000 dollars for the organization by winning the Hardest Shot competition at the 2009 NHL All Star Game this past weekend in Montreal. Some of your other favourite athletes might have mentioned it in an interview at some point.

RTP combines education with fun by helping children learn through sport. Their aim, as per their website, is "creating a healthier and safer world for children through the power of sport and play." Now who wouldn't love that?

Apparently, the International Olympic Committee doesn't think that's good enough anymore. Since 2000, RTP has been allowed access into the Althlete's Village at Olympic Games to speak to the athletes and raise awareness for the cause - hoping to engage them into becoming Right to Play Ambassadors. These ambassadors help spread the word about RTP and its goals, via conferences, fundraising, and trips to Third World countries (that are occasionally covered by various media partners).

Since the IOC decided not to renew it's Memorandum of Understanding with Right to Play, the charity finds itself lacking a primary means of recruitment and fundraising. This is a huge blow, a gazillion steps back from all the progress it has accomplished in the past few years. Where in 2004 nearly no one was aware of its existence, RTP is now highly respected and recognized around the world as an organization of value, thanks to Olympic athletes like Clara Hughes, Chantal Petitclerc, Kyle Shewfelt, Adam Van Koeverden, Donovan Bailey, Beckie Scott, Hayley Wickenheiser, Catriona Le May Doan, so many more...

The list is endless - and that's just from the Canadian website. Whole sports teams and leagues, as well as corporations, have officially partnered with Right to Play.

The problem, according to this article published by the Lethbridge Herald, is that the IOC wants to focus on its own similar programs. It still supports Right to Play's activities though. Isn't that's sweet?

Apparently, the whole controversy boils down to, what else? Money! It's a sponsorship issue.

Gary Mason of the Globe and Mail writes that when the Vancouver Organizing Committee learned that RTP had managed to sign a major sponsorship deal with Mitsubishi Motor Sales - which, if you're keeping track, is a major competitor to Vancouver Olympics' major sponsor General Motors - VANOC and GM were "worried that Mitsubishi was going to use its sponsorship with Right to Play as a way of getting Olympic exposure."

A deal of sorts was struck between VANOC and Right to Play, whereas Mitsubishi's name wouldn't appear on promotional material distributed during the Games or on the RTP website during that two week period. But somehow, the IOC got involved and the final decision was a resounding "NO!"

There's no denying that this charity is legit and that it does accomplish good. In fact, its aims are truly allied with the IOC's, whose website says one of the goals 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."

Wouldn't that goal be easier accomplished by associating with an organization like Right to Play? I think so.

However, complaining and trying to raise awareness about how wrong this brusque denial really is will not help Right to Play promote its message worldwide. Instead, as regular citizens of the world, all we can do is join the movement and hope for the best.

Help make the world a better place through Right to Play, click here to donate one time or once a month, whatever your budget can handle.

And don't forget! A donation makes a great gift!

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