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Here’s to our Canadian Olympic leaders. Take that, International Olympic Committee. And now, the rest of the world can get in line and follow Canada’s lead.
Sunday, the IOC announced it would delay a decision whether or not to go ahead with the Tokyo Olympics. Sunday evening, Canada said, hell no, we won’t go.
In between announcements, I spoke to somebody they should listen to, despite their history of not being very good listeners.
“Athletes don’t want to go to a Games and not perform at their best,” Diane Jones-Konihowski said Sunday after the IOC decided to delay the logical and inevitable for four more weeks. “For me, it’s about money. The IOC doesn’t really care about the athletes. If they were really listening to the athletes of the world, they would postpone the Olympic Games now.
“I hope the top sponsors, Proctor & Gamble, McDonald’s and the rest of them, will support the athletes in this. They don’t want to put millions of dollars into a substandard level of Games. Athletes don’t want to go to a Games and not be able perform at their best.”
Jones-Konihowski knows what it’s like as an athlete to have an Olympics taken away from her. She was Canada’s hope for a medal at Moscow 1980, when Canada’s federal politicians decided to boycott.
But this isn’t the same, she said in an exclusive interview with your correspondent Sunday afternoon.
“There is no way an athlete will want to go to an Olympic Games having their training compromised in any way,” she said. “An athlete’s life is all around periodization. Those who haven’t made the standard yet and haven’t made the team work to peak for the trials and then have a second round of peaking at the Olympics.
“For athletes themselves, this delay is absolutely devastating. This is very unfair to them. I’m hoping the athletes of the world will be able to change the minds of the IOC.
“The IOC talks about being all about the athletes, but really, it’s about money.
“Maybe it will take the top sponsors of the Olympic Games to maybe sway the IOC from taking another four weeks to delay their decision.”
Jones-Konihowski was just getting warmed up.
“The athletes end up as pawns. They always have. They’re just so entitled. I know what it’s like because I was Canada’s Chef de Mission at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
“You look at all these prime seats reserved for the IOC members empty at every event, but where are the IOC members? They’re up in their wonderful lounges. They have all the free food and all the booze they want. For them, it’s not about the Games.
“It’s never about going down and cheering on the athletes. It never is. When you get to experience that sort of thing, you really know what it’s all about and the true state of the Olympic movement.
“Haley Wickenheiser is getting it now. Who knows if Haley will have the courage to walk away from her position because she understands that she is a pawn. It’s nice for them to have one of the best female athletes in the world. It looks good on the resume. But Haley doesn’t need that. She’s there to make a difference, and the other day, she decided to stand up to the IOC, which is what Becky Scott did with WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency’s athlete committee) as well.
“Hayley was the first Canadian athlete to speak out internationally against the sluggishness of the IOC not making a decision. She’s a member of the IOC and in her comments, she said these Games should be postponed and that it is very unfair for the athletes who can’t train.
“She also said the IOC doesn’t like anyone who steps out of line. When you look at someone like Haley, who is speaking out against the IOC, it’s the same as Becky with WADA, the world anti-doping association. Becky spoke out because she was representing the athletes of the world and it got to the point where she was driven off that commission.
“You get the athletes to this level of sport, which is awesome, but if they don’t have the freedom to speak out without being penalized, then it’s kind of tokenism.
Jones-Konihowski has the most sympathy for the athletes at the end of their Olympic lifeline.
“For so many athletes, this is their last hurrah and would be absolutely devastating to their career even if it were to be postponed another year. For the young athletes, the new athletes, the athletes that are going to be around for another two or three Olympics, it’s not as devastating if they know the Games will be held in 2021. But it’s very, very difficult for those athletes who know this will be their last and final Olympic Games.”
But Jones-Konihowski is thinking of them all, athletes around the world who are either continuing to train in their basements or exposing themselves to COVID-19. And she doesn’t believe that the IOC is thinking of them at all. As always.
On Twitter: @ByTerryJones
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