Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) President Christopher Samuda says feedback to their stance on not boycotting the Paris Olympic Games next year has been positive.
Jamaica, in refusing to boycott, will be in opposition to the position of 34 nations who are threatening a boycott regarding allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in Paris as neutral representatives in spite of their countries’ invasion of Ukraine, which has led to an ongoing war since February 2022.
Samuda and JOA Secretary General Ryan Foster both told the Jamaica Observer recently that their stance can also be seen as a declaration of the association’s solidarity with Olympism and the International Olympic Committee, whose president, Thomas Bach, visited the island over a week ago.
“Many have come to me and said, ‘Mr Samuda, we thank you so much for articulating that position at the JOA’,” Samuda said.
“‘We thank the JOA because we have sacrificed family, we have sacrificed personally, we have sacrificed a lot of things in order to make a bid’, not only for themselves but for the country on the greatest stage in multi-sport.”
National shot put record holder O’Dayne Richards, an Olympian, is one athlete who supports the JOA. He says any decision to boycott should rest solely with athletes.
“I agree with Samuda,” he said. “In this way, it gives each athlete the choice to boycott. I would hate for that choice to be made without the athlete’s consent.”
Samuda says it is unfair to hold athletes accountable for a war they had no part in.
“They are not the architects of war,” he said. “They’re not the engineers of war. They don’t create wars. On that basis alone, someone should be sympathetic if an athlete says he wants to participate in the Olympic Games for which he has trained for perhaps eight years, if he or she didn’t make the grade the first time.”
Samuda says the JOA is mindful of the role it and athletes play in nation-building, and also of the role sport, as a whole, plays in that regard.
“We have a responsibility not only to our athletes, but also the country in terms of the brand of Jamaica,” he said.
“We have never boycotted an Olympic Games, and certainly, this administration would want to continue that. We have to understand that our athletes are a critical part of Brand Jamaica and in sport, that is also very phenomenal.
“When we go abroad in business and other spheres of human activities, it is the athletic, it is the sport framework that allows us to push certain doors and we have to understand that. If our sportsmen and sportswomen do not have the opportunity to accentuate that brand and to deepen the meaning of that brand so that other doors can be pushed, then we are in fact short-changing ourselves as a nation.”
The threat of a boycott is led by the United States of America, Great Britain, Canada, Germany, and France, who collectively accounted for more than a fifth of the participants at the Tokyo Games in 2021.
The United States led a boycott of the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980 to protest the late 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In total, 65 nations refused to participate in the games, whereas 80 countries, including Jamaica, sent athletes to compete.