Wednesday, January 06, 2010

(Ski) Jumping the shark

It is a shame that the International Olympic Committee, the Vancouver Organizing Committee and the Canadian courts have denied female ski jumpers the chance to compete in the Olympics. In this day and age, it's ridiculous to hold a men-only Olympic event, especially when you've previously waived all the procedural and competitive elements you're citing as reasons. However, it's important to keep this in perspective; at the end of the day, it's a small number of people who don't have the chance to compete in one athletic competition. It's sad, but it's not a horrible tragedy. Thus, you probably shouldn't be comparing it to Hitler's treatment of Jews, especially if you're a prominent Jewish organization (talking to you, B'nai Brith Canada!).

Here's the offending passage in a B'nai Brith press release sent out Monday, as quoted by the National Post's Jonathan Kay (who called the organization to ensure this wasn't a hoax):

"The League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada, has called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) to reconsider the continued exclusion of Women’s Ski Jumping from the upcoming Olympic Games … In a letter to John Furlong, CEO of VANOC, the League recalled the 1936 Berlin Olympics when the OIC turned a blind eye to Hitler’s fascist regime, which was even then implementing discriminatory policies against Jews that impacted Games that year. The League asks the OIC and the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) to focus on its policies and practices relating to discrimination, 'and that includes eliminating discrimination against women now, just as it should have included resistance to discrimination against Jews then.'"

I'm no defender of the Olympics, and they certainly have a troubled past. The IOC deserves a lot of criticism for how they've acted historically, and the 1936 Berlin Games have to be placed right at the top of the list of their blunders (except for that torch relay thing! That's totally cool!). However, comparing the present-day treatment of women ski jumpers to Hitler's treatment of Jews is ridiculous and insulting, and it's an unfortunate application of Godwin's Law
. The use of reductio ad Hitlerum has become so widespread that it's begun to trivialize the Holocaust. B'nai Brith should be the last group that wants that, so I'd encourage them to avoid these ridiculous comparisons in the future. As Kay points out above, this is just jumping the shark.

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