Scheduled to open in Harbin next week, the women’s world hockey championships offer the first chance since to see how international athletes will react in the aftermath of Tibetan riots and subsequent talk of boycotting the Beijing Olympics. The Canadian women’s national team, so far at least, is choosing to keep politics off the ice. From the Canadian Press:
“I’m not sure sport has a certain power, but it has a certain exposure,” Canadian head coach Peter Smith said. “It’s high profile and, unfortunately, a situation exists where there are people who want to use sport as a vehicle to promote whatever their views are.”
Is it fair to athletes who have spent most of their lives preparing to represent their country on the international stage – and perhaps living near the poverty line doing so – to then boycott an event on their country’s behalf?
“I think it’s unfair because I can’t say I have enough knowledge to fight this political battle,” forward Jayna Hefford said. “To take a side is unfair to ask an athlete to do.
“We’re here to compete and represent our country and play a physical sport that we enjoy.”
Defenceman Gillian Ferrari acknowledged athletes have the power to make a statement by choosing to participate, or not participate, in an event, but also feels it’s easier for athletes in individual sports to do that.
“If an athlete is really educated and knows both sides of the story and you have a strong opinion one way, that’s fine,” she said. “I don’t feel I know enough about both sides of the story.”