Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman delivers her impact statement during the sentencing of former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who pled guilty to multiple counts of sexual assault. (Photo by Dale G. Young/Detroit News via AP)

For most of January 2018, one of the worst sexual abuse scandals ever in sports dominated the news cycle, as former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to life in prison. During the trial, more than 100 sexual abuse victims testified about the predatory environment Nassar had created. Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman delivered an awe-inspiring 13-minute testimony that received national praise. Raisman, who identified herself as a powerful voice and advocate for all victims of sexual abuse, embodied the persona of feminist advocate and champion for abuse victims. However, Raisman’s credibility as a feminist advocate has come into scrutiny in light of her decision to pose – for the second time – for the 2018 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. This case raises several questions: Can Raisman still be considered a feminist advocate in light of her choice to pose for a sexist, white, heteronormative, and objectifying magazine feature? Where is the line between empowerment and objectification? As a rhetoric scholar, I am interested in how both Raisman’s traditional form of activism (public address) and her embodied rhetoric are compatible feminist discourses. My purpose is to explain Raisman’s multi-modal activism through the lens of feminist rhetorical criticism – highlighting the concept of “power feminism” – in order to complicate what feminist sports scholars and hosts of the Burn It All Down podcast call the “Sports Illustrated swimsuit conundrum.”

Click here to read the full article...

Although it is often framed as a “global” event, the Winter Olympics is quite exclusive and Eurocentric. (Photo by Mike Crane Photography)

While a record number of countries and athletes are expected to participate in the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, the Winter edition of the Olympics remains an exclusive event. South Korea will be just the 12th country that has ever hosted the Winter Olympics, a quadrennial event that was inaugurated in France in 1924. Only a few countries have the geographic and economic conditions to host the event, which accounts for the fact that only 6 percent of the 206 recognized National Olympic Committees have ever done so. Further, a majority of countries still do not participate in the Winter Olympic Games. At the 2014 Sochi Games, 89 countries participated. This number increases to 92 in PyeongChang (plus the “Olympic Athlete from Russia” category), which still leaves 55 percent of countries out of the Games. According to the organizing committee website, 31 nations are participating with just one athlete (18 countries) or two athletes (13 countries). Seven of the eight participating African countries will send only one or two athletes to PyeongChang, while Nigeria has the largest African delegation with three athletes. For comparison, the United States of America is participating with 242 athletes.

Click here to read the full article...

Mount Gariwang, formerly a protected conservation area, is being developed into a skiing venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Photo by Liv Yoon.

PyeongChang is a small county in the northeastern province of Gangwon, South Korea, with a population of approximately 43,000. This mountainous region, known for its quaint charm and small-scale agriculture-based economy, will host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, and as a result, joins a long list of host-cities that have witnessed turmoil due to sport mega-events. An issue surrounding the PyeongChang Games that has gained some attention – but certainly not enough – is the destruction of Mount Gariwang, a former Class 1 Protected Area for Forest Genetic Resource Conservation, now transformed into the official alpine skiing venue. Because this area had long been protected from any kind of development, public or private, a “Special Act” had to be legislated to pave way for the development.

Click here to read the full article...

*Cross posted on The Rabbit Hole*

It was recently (quietly) reported that the United Nations Office on Sport and Development and Peace (UNOSDP) closed on April 30, 2017 as a cost-saving measure, a fact that is interestingly not noted on the actual UNOSDP website. The UNOSDP was created to capitalize on all the ways that sport can be used as a vehicle to achieve development goals. Wilfred Lemke was appointed as the Special Adviser to the UN on Sport for Development and Peace in 2008 succeeding Adolf Ogi.  The job of the Special Adviser is three fold:

  • lead and coordinate sport projects that contribute to poverty reduction, HIV/AIDS prevention, universal education, sustainable development, and inclusion of persons living with disabilities etc.
  • encourage dialogue, collaboration, and partnerships between the UNOSDP and member states
  • represent the Secretary General and the UN at global sporting events/meetings such as the Olympics, Paralympics, and World Cup.

The closing of the UNOSDP means that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) now has a direct line to the Secretary General.  Given that the IOC is not a nation state, one wonders why the IOC is so invested in having the ear of the Secretary General. I asked my friend and colleague Dr. Nicolien van Luijk (@nicolien_vl) to offer her thoughts on the matter. Click here to read the full article...

A general view of the Olympic Rings, flag, Vinicius and Christ the Redeemer made into a sand sculpture on the beach during the Olympics. Photo from decodedc.com

Six months ago, the world watched on in wonder as the 2016 Olympic Games opened with a colourful ceremony in Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracanã stadium. Just over two weeks of heart-stopping drama, superhuman performances, incredible feats of power and precision and one lying swimmer later, it was all over. Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, closed the Rio 2016 Olympic Games claiming that “history will talk about a Rio de Janeiro before and a much better Rio de Janeiro after the Olympic Games”.

Click here to read the full article...