PREMIUM Spotlight: Sports & Crime “It’s just sports”

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PREMIUM Spotlight: Sports & Crime “It’s just sports”

UM’s PREMIUM project is the honours programme for high performing and motivated master students. The PREMIUM Sports & Crime team, consisting of four students from the masters in ‘Forensics, Criminology and Law’, developed a paper and seminar on sports & crime.

Everyone knows the Olympic Games as a huge sports event which attracts spectators from all over the world. Top athletes represent their country by competing for the ultimate prize: an Olympic golden medal. People at home tune in to see the opening ceremony and closely watch their television as their favorite sport comes on. But it is more than a social or sportive gathering.

The Olympic Games seek to promote human dignity and human rights through sports, uniting people from all over the globe. However, as we’ve seen in the past, there have been numerous examples of people being deprived of their rights prior to the Games. Think of issues with the freedom of speech in Beijing (2008), LGBT-rights in Sochi (2014), but also more generally of forced evictions, bad working conditions or low wages for construction workers and other personnel. As the ‘PREMIUM Sports & Crime’ team we focused on this paradox in our project on the Olympic games and human rights violations: “It’s just sports”.

Our team consisted of four ladies, all doing their masters ‘Forensics, Criminology and Law’ at Maastricht University. What made our team strong is that we had different backgrounds (Criminology, Psychology & Law) and we had two very helpful and supportive supervisors (Hans Nelen & Roland Moerland, both working at the Faculty of Law). So instead of working directly for a client, we worked on a paper with our supervisors and subsequently organized a seminar which was held on the 8th of September.

In our research, we interviewed top athletes and addressed their opinions on the occurring violations: What do they think about such human rights violations? Does it have an impact on them? Do they ever consider making a statement against such violations? Is such a statement even allowed? In general, we found that athletes pity the recurring violations, but they don’t feel like they can change anything. They put a lot of time and effort into training, so they need to focus on their game. Moreover, athletes link human rights to politics and emphasize that politics and sports should be separated.

As a closure to our PREMIUM-experience, we decided to organize a seminar on the ‘Olympic Games & human rights violations’. After having set out the findings from our research, guest speaker Henk Hulshof from Amnesty International took the floor and elaborated on previous examples of athletes speaking out against human rights violations, such as John Carlos and Tommie Smith in 1968 who had raised their fists during the medal ceremony as a human rights salute, and specifically in the Netherlands ‘Oeki’ Hoekema who refused to play in the Argentina of dictator Jorge Videla in 1978. Hulshof also spoke on the main IOC believes that the awarding of the Games to countries such as China can lead to the improvement of the human rights record, but in practice this is not always the case.

Together with Hans Nelen, Roland Moerland and Henk Hulshof, we sparked a small discussion with the attending students on a couple of questions during the seminar, such as: should athletes take a stance against human rights violations? Should politicians be more active in addressing human rights violations in relation to the Games? Should the IOC formulate stricter selecting rules when selecting a host country, in order to protect the Games? After an interesting discussion which resulted in even more food for thought, everyone headed for a drink and a chat.

PREMIUM has been a great experience for us. Whether it was late night brainstorming on our subject, meetings with our supervisors on how to write the paper, attending workshops with other PREMIUM-students, having a chat with our personal PREMIUM-coach or nervously presenting our paper during the seminar: we had a blast!

Radka Babjaková, Sharon Deten, Jennifer Etoré & Kim Geurtjens,

The ‘PREMIUM Sports & Crime’ team

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