Stuart Harrison: How BBC See Hear challenged the ICSD President on the Deaflympics

Posted on September 27, 2016


stuart harrison

In the recent BBC television programme See Hear, the president of the ICSD, Valery Rukhledev was challenged on his attitude towards working with the International Paralympic Committee.

The programme, which aired on 7th September 2016, celebrated the opening of the 2016 Paralympics in Rio by asking questions about Deaf people and the Paralympics. Unfortunately, this programme is only available to be viewed on the BBC iplayer for a limited time, so I am going to explain, for posterity, how the See Hear programme challenged the ICSD.

Craig Crowley, President of UK Deaf Sport and former president of the ICSD and myself, made it very clear to viewers that the ICSD must open up a working dialogue with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to look forward into the future and investigate the possibilities of Deaf sports appearing in future Paralympic Games.

Claire Stancliffe, captain of the GB Women’s Football team repeated the refrain that the lack of recognition from the UK government for the Deaflympics means that Deaf athletes have to spend time and energy on fundraising and this is taking their focus away from training and preparing properly for competitions.

Craig Crowley said it was “regrettable” that the ICSD President will not speak to the IPC because the ICSD cannot continue alone in trying to support and run the Deaflympic games. He compared this to the Paralympics, which would not be able to continue as it is without the support of the IOC and its monopoly on sport. Crowley said, that until there is a relationship between the Deaflympics and the Paralympics, Deaf sport and its athletes will continue to be disadvantaged.

We have all seen how important it is for the IPC to have the support of the IOC when the 2016 Paralympics were threatened in Rio due to financial difficulties, it has been the IOC monopoly that put pressure on the hosts to salvage what they could of the 2016 Paralympics and allowed the majority of countries to take part. Please be under no illusion, the Deaflympic games faces increasing financial pressures every year, and it will not get better. Each games will become riskier and more challenging to organise.

See Hear asked ICSD President Dr Valery Rukhledev if he could see a future where the deaf were in the Paralympics. His answer was evasive – he said that he respected those who wanted to merge with the Paralympics and he respected those who preferred to compete separately.

See Hear challenged Dr Rukhledev to explain why he did not agree with delegates at a recent IOC meeting who were open to the idea of the Deaf competing in the Paralympics. Once again he was non-committal, he stated the very obvious that at the moment it would be impossible to achieve this because there needs to be a discussion and dialogue.

Rukhledev was then challenged to explain why there was nothing in the recent MOU between the ICSD and IOC to develop a relationship and dialogue with the IPC. His answer has infuriated viewers and highlighted how he is not prepared to take the responsibility. he claims that there is “no communication at all, the IPC has not shown any support to the Deaf.” he explained that “They (IPC) kept quiet, making it difficult for me.”

Although he said that he was prepared to sit down and talk with the president of the IPC, Rukhledev’s next comments demonstrated his arrogance and illusions of grandeur because he believes that it is not his job to ask for the meeting, it was up to the IPC to approach him instead.

When asked why he was not going to make the first move, Rukhledev appeared narrow-minded and unimaginative in his approach for the future of Deaf sport around the world. He wants to see the IPC proposal first then discuss it and ICSD Congress and only after that would he be willing to meet with the IPC President!

See Hear ramped up the challenge, asking him why he was not prepared to make the first move to ‘grasp the opportunity’ to work with the IPC and get deaf sport into the Paralympic games so that deaf athletes would benefit from increased media coverage and global visibility.

Rukhledev claimed that the MAJORITY of Deaf people still agreed with the original CISS position held in the 1980s and want to see 20 deaf sports in the Paralympic programme. He said if this was to happen then he would agree to the deaf competing in the Paralympics. I replied to this on the programme by explaining that the world has changed in the last 20-30 years and we must go into discussions with the IPC with an open mind. This way, the discussions will be about exploring opportunities of mutual benefit and not dragging up the old days and starting trying to barter their way in.

In my book “Same Spirit Different Team” I described how Craig Crowley as ICSD President  was proactive in meeting with the IOC and the IPC in equal measure. His discussions were about the development of the MOU, designed to protect the name of the Deaflympics under the rights of the Olympic partners, to open doors for marketing media and sponsorship. But this will not come about though the current MOU unless there is a relationship with the IPC. The IOC cannot afford to fund the Paralympics and the Deaflympics separately at different venues and in separate years. There is opportunity to make greater use of the Olympic facilities in tandem.

Deaf athletes like Claire Stancliffe would like to see the Deaflympics and the Paralympics merge so that it gives Deaf athletes equality and more opportunities to be able to train more.

At the end of the programme, a statement form the IPC suggested that the door may be open, ajar, for the ICSD to become a member of the IPC otherwise the current situation‘forfeits’ the deaf from competing in the Paralympics.

Personally, I don’t think we should be be trying to combine the Deaflympics and Paralympics into one convoluted event, there is already too much pressure on the IPC as it is with complicated classifications and different disability types competing for a place on the starting line. The IPC are continually cutting back on sports and events, trying to be as economical and profitable as possible. So it is about time that the ICSD appointed a president who was a real visionary, who has a proper imagination to explore realistic possibilities because Deaf sport cannot survive by relying on the same old things. I am not sure a Russian would listen to a  President of the United States who one said once said:

“The greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result.” (Barrack Obama)

I plead with the ICSD Executive to stop playing Russian Roulette with Deaf sport, climb down from the high-horse, moral ground, get realistic and take on some realism because you need to go and knock on the door of the IPC before it is too late. Do not wait until you are thirsty before digging a well.

I would like to ask our readers around the world, is the ICSD correct to challenge for 20 deaf sports in the Paralympics or should it be more sensible in its strategy ? Please let us know what you think.

As one of the founders of UK Deaf Sport, Stuart is a writer, author and blogger on Deaf sports issues and Deaflympic politics. A PE and Outdoor Education specialist, he delivers sports coaching CPD training with sports coach UK. Blog: 

The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.

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