Sport isn’t rightly a ‘right’

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Google doodle celebrating diversity and the Winter Olympics as seen on Friday 7 February 2014.

Controversy, corruption, and countless backlogs of construction work has given some the impression that Russia wasn’t ready to host this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Western journalists who started arriving earlier this week were quick to tweet of the dangers and peculiarities of reporting from what could have been confused with the Developing World.

But this is more funny than angering. What really has provoked some is Moscow’s politics, specifically its opposition to gay rights. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently passed laws against and judgement upon gay people, banning “homosexual propaganda.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon recently condemned the attacks in a speech to the Olympic Committee, saying that “many professional athletes, gay and straight, are speaking out against the prejudice.”

It was unsurprising, then, for Google to make their own political statement via their famous Google doodles. However, to emphasise their point, a quote from the Olympic Charter was put under the search bar.

“The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play,” the quote says.

My contention isn’t with the sentiment of this charter, of course, being an avid supporter of the LGBTQ movement, but I do have an issue with the first sentence: “The practice of sport is a human right.” The innappropriate inflation of what is at best a nice, inoffensive activity to being on par with the right to “life, liberty and security of person” (Article 2 of The Universal Declaration for Human Rights), seems a bit sensationalist. I get it – sports mean a lot to people, and it should mean one heck of a lot more to the organisers of the Olympics! But, if we had to, we could do without sport at the sacrifice of relatively little freedom or enjoyment of life – certainly many young Americans seem to think so.

Perhaps the closest officially recognised human right to a right for sport participation would be Article 24 of the Universal Declaration, “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.” However it’s a long discus throw from that to saying that the “practice of sport [itself] is a human right.”

Some may think I’m nitpicking, but I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to wording – especially of laws, mission statements, policies, and the like. Whether or not this was a case of clumsiness or actual belief that sport participation is a right, I don’t know. What I’m absolutely certain of, though, is that freedom from slavery and the freedom of expression are more lofty and important ideals to our society than the right to go skiing.

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