Posts Tagged ‘Olympics’

Response to: Female Olympians remind us of how far Arabs have to go, by Sara Al Boom

Posted on: August 3rd, 2012 by Tom Pattillo No Comments

As a male basketball player and coach (both men and women) I am very much on your side. I have two sisters intensely and successfully involved in the equestrian world. And a very good friend was an all Canadian Small College Women All Star.

While living in the UAE, I would occasionally meet young women with a huge commitment to and love for basketball. One women in particular, although she was not well at the time I met her, had set her goal to become a member of the UAE national basketball team. Given her ability, dedication, intelligence, self belief and desire, I have no doubts (assuming her health permits) about her achieving this goal.

Sara, as I read your article it occurred to me that you might adopt a communication strategy that would add impact and clarity to your ideas.

Formally it is called the dialectic approach (Hegel). Essentially there are three points. Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis.

Your position and supporting evidence about women in sports is your Thesis. The countervailing opinions are the Antithesis. The possible solution, taking into account both Thesis and Antithesis, is called Synthesis. Although simple in concept, I think it will help clarify your argument.


What is it you want?
Why do you want it?
Who will it benefit?
What evidence can you give to support your claims.
Evidence has a number of sources; your personal experiences and beliefs, citing experts about women in sports, Arab cultural norms that you feel have been overcome in other Arab countries, examples of successful Arab women athletes on the national and international stage, and potential benefit of participation in sports at all age and educational levels.


These are the arguments opposed to your Thesis. It is important these be given the same hearing and respect accorded to your Thesis arguments. You must always begin with the attitude and assumption that those on the “other side” have legitimate and well thought out reasons for disagreeing with your Thesis.

What points have you highlighted?
1) no one cares about Emirati women’s athletic potential, 2) some do not believe there are talented female athletes worthy of Olympic aspirations, 3) money is not available to support these athletes, 4) traditional Arab societies do not “support” young women competing in high-level sporting events (and thus logically at any level!).
IMPORTANT POINT: Saying those arguing against you are NOT wrong. Those stating that women in sports violates culture and religion are just as right as you. Really. They would not agree they are wrong, any more than you would agree with their statement that you are wrong!

Your comment about the Twitter campaign in Saudi Arabia must be taken into account with objectivity and understanding. The Saudi culture is very conservative regarding women’s place in the society. Although you disagree with this, you must see that your statement: “But Saudi Arabia will not be able to keep a lid on this much longer, and conservatives are going to have to accept it.” is like putting a red flag in front of the proverbial bull. In the 2012 world of the repercussions of the Arab spring, the idea of “not keeping a lid” on anything, or “conservatives are going to have to accept it” is tantamount to denigrating the multitude of efforts in the UAE to maintain a balanced, peaceful, and safe national environment. Challenging “conservatives” directly, at this point, might engender a reactionary response rather admiration and agreement. (What do you think?)

Given your understanding of the Thesis and Antithesis, what might a reasonable plan include. (Notice I did not say compromise . . . that word can also generate anger rather than interest. “People don’t want to feel they have been “forced” into a compromise.)

Your challenge:

(It would be fun and appropriate at this point to do a complete organizational values, mission, beliefs, goals, objectives, strategies and tactic process procedure. The goal would be not only to bring about agreement on the concept of women in sports, but also a plan (agreed to by both sides) to bring the various things you mentioned, to fruition.)

However, for the purpose of this Dialectic approach, Synthesis means starting at the point where both sides can agree. (As far up the “common denominator” mountain as you and they need to go.)

Think about the rational (to them) arguments your critics have. Which can you agree with?

For example, culture is important. Right? And of course so is religion. Right? Both sides can agree on that.

Physical education and sports are certainly necessary components in the drive to reduce the dangers of being overweight; currently a worldwide “epidemic.” Type II Diabetes can be avoided, or its impact minimized, if people are involved in good eating habits and exercise that sports people recognize as essential to health. Right?

Money is available to support many good things in the UAE. Sports is not an expense. National pride has no price tag, a healthier population puts less strain (and costs) on the medical system, and people live longer, healthier lives.

There is no guarantee to any strategy or approach. This method gives both sides the opportunity to be heard, understood, accepted (not agreed with!), and respected.

A wonderful article Sara. I hope these ideas are helpful.

Tom Pattillo

Female Olympians remind us of how far Arabs have to go
Sara Al Boom
Aug 3, 2012 Female Olympians remind us of how far Arabs have to go
For many years, we have witnessed the western world produce female athletes of Olympic calibre. Female athletes around the world have embraced their talents and are representing their countries at the highest levels. The Summer Games in London are just the latest example.

Many nations show so much support for women athletes, while the Arab world still fails to provide the same opportunities.

Russia, the United States, China, Kenya and other countries have numerous female athletes participating in these Olympics who will bring home gold. These women excel because they are good at what they do – but they also have the full support of their countries.
As an Emirati, I am often disappointed in the lack of participation of Arab women in sports. At certain times, I don’t have a clear answer as to why this is. If asked, I either say it’s political, or just shrug and walk away. And to be frank, I usually go with the second option.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not that the Arab world does not have talented female athletes. It just needs to promote the idea of women participating in the Olympics to encourage more young girls across the region to demand their inclusion.

The Asian Games in 2006 provided the first real opportunity for Gulf women to participate at a large-scale sporting competition. That contribution has increased over the years, along with a remarkable display in the inaugural 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore and the Arab Games in Doha last December.

Along with the UAE, Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia all sent women to participate in the Olympics this year, the first time for the last three countries. These are remarkable steps towards a gender balance in international sport.

This is phase one. Phase two will be far more difficult.

There are so many talented female athletes in the Arab world who can only reach the highest levels of sport if they are supported fully by their countries. This support is multifaceted. First, it is financial: money must be spent on training, research and facilities for elite athletes to excel. But even more important than money is political and cultural support.

The biggest challenge Arab societies will face is adapting to the idea of young women competing in high-level sporting events. Many people still believe it is a violation of culture and religion, or perhaps a mere waste of time. But they are wrong.

The UAE, Qatar and other neighbouring countries are pushing to change this way of thinking. Lagging behind is Saudi Arabia- the recent Twitter campaign against the two female members of the Saudi Olympic team illustrates just how far the country has to go. But Saudi Arabia will not be able to keep a lid on this much longer, and conservatives are going to have to accept it.

Sport has always been an essential part of my life. It has become a release, a chance to get away from boredom and turmoil. But it hasn’t always been easy. Seven years ago, during a hot summer in July, I remember calling various clubs in Dubai to ask if they had a girls’ football team I could join. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the responses I got were either laughter or a simple hang up.

The UAE has come a long way since then, and the 2012 Olympic team includes Khadija Mohammed, who represents the UAE in weightlifting today, and runner Bethlem Deslagn Belayneh, who competes next week.

They are an inspiration, but they need our support. First, physical education programmes should be introduced and properly taught at every school. Second, Arab countries should send scouts to schools, and sponsor girls who are talented in any sporting field so that they can compete at an international level.

Young women gain and learn so much from participating in athletics that they cannot get anywhere else. If they are not receiving those opportunities, think of the vast amount they are missing out on.

The global status of women in sport is changing. We live in a world that can only move forward. We must work together and introduce a positive attitude towards the female role in sports.
Sara Al Boom is an Emirati university student and sport enthusiast

Questions I would like answered!

Posted on: July 17th, 2012 by Tom Pattillo No Comments

1. Who made the decision to hire the London Olympics Games security company that is completely incompetent? How was the decision made? Was it open bidding process, with tenders, criteria, and rational decision-making? Were there reporting requirements, check points for performance? This is the Olympics not some shopping centre opening, what happened? It seems that “sorry” is just hardly sufficient as a way out of this fiasco.

2. Why does anyone at any level think that Assad is going to change his behavior? He is not going to. I wrote about this a number of months ago. Have world leaders now descended so low that they allow thousands of deaths to occur with no other excuse than “Well, he told us he wouldn’t do that anymore.” Annan must be just about the most naive statesman since Chamberlain and his “Peace in Our Time.”

3. There are still people who adamantly refuse to believe that “Climate Change” is the result of human beings. I know there are people who still think the earth is flat, but frankly we just feel sorry for them, and then forget them. But senior government and political leaders refusing to accept the facts and the persuasive evidence is ludicrous. I listened to a “respected” American business leader give a presentation at a Higher Colleges of Technology conference in Dubai in September 2006. His final message was to the effect that he did not believe in Global Warming, but that if true it would be a bonanza for business that would be tasked to provide the technology, materials, and equipment to address the effects.

4. Why does my country Canada blindly go about solving crime by building more prisons and make penalties higher? It is insane. Really, insane. Investing money at that level is liken to the old adage about “closing the barn door after the horse has escaped”. All research shows that children (from before birth through infancy, adolescence and their teenage years who are not provided both emotional and physical safety and sustenance have far greater chance of becoming delinquents. “Far greater chance” is the key. There will always personalities that will err on the side of criminal behavior. Our goal as a civilization is do whatever is within our power to create conditions that are conducive to positive, humane experiences for as many, or in this case, all our citizens. Isn’t it? While taking my MBA at the University of Western Ontario (last century (1976)) I was firmly in the capitalist “camp”. I was a libertarian. Every person has the opportunity to become a titan of business, the Prime Minister of Canada (always sounds better in the American phrase, “Anyone can become President.”), or whatever. Then I grew up. I was able, for whatever reason, to take off my “capitalism-is-the-only-way” blinders and see that in one of the richest countries in the world (yes, Canada!) there was endemic property, hopelessness, and greed. Whether in public or private spheres, turning a blind eye, and using the “should” excuse, was considered an erudite and appropriate response to the disparities between “rich and poor”. I reflect on the “entitlement” title “pejoratively” assigned to this generation. If one takes just a wee bit of time to think about the meaning of “entitlement” and then look at the “baby boom” generation, you will see a culture of entitlement that far exceeds any other example. The baby boom generation thinks they are “entitled” to their money, their bonuses, and their retirement packages . . . everything that is above what the “average” person will have. “Entitled” because everything they earned above the money they needed to live, was their right, they were entitled to “save” for their retirement, to have money to get medical service outside of Canada, or put their “savings” in offshore accounts to minimize their tax exposure. (The New Brunswick Irvings took their money to Bermuda, build palatial homes, enjoyed “legal” and wonderful tax breaks, AND then came home to Canada to receive free medical service.) Canada has (or did have) the best Public Health Care in the World, including health care nurses, systems, and on and on. Then Canada began to compare itself to the United States. Our leaders, enamored by the “Americans” policy, reduced our Public Health system (envied by the rest of the world) to “nothing” in many areas. This could be a 50,000-word “essay”. However, given no one will read this missive, taking the time to write a 50,000 essay seems a bit silly if not self-indulgent.

5. Canada’s aboriginal “situation”. This has been a farce for so long that surely it is time to actually do something logical to address and solve it. My feeling is that you either “solve a problem or manage a problem.” Bureaucrats and those within organizations where success is based on personal salary, vacations, cars, and homes, rather than change, improvement or objective results: they MANAGE the problem to their benefit. Why solve the Aboriginal housing crisis? If solved, bureaucracies cut, reduced, removed and REDUNDANT. Now there’s a goal every bureaucrat dreams of . . . working themselves out of a job. As for the Aboriginal perspective, please do a bit of research on the impact of a tribal, nomadic, religious, and a “rentier” mentality on the thinking and behaviors of Aboriginal Groups. My five years in the United Arab Emirates was an amazing eye-opener about these four areas. The more I studied the Arab culture, the more it paralleled the Aboriginal Culture in Canada. And yes, I have some experience with the Aboriginal society as I facilitated a nation wide Aboriginal Financial symposium in 1995. Please know that I don’t think the aboriginal population or leaders are to blame. They are complicit in the bureaucrats desire to “manage” the problem rather solve it, and they enabled to measure their success in media exposure and pleas to the United Nations. The whole idea of Aboriginal people being able to learn, live, control, and manage their money, lands, and entitlements is an anathema to the majority of bureaucrats and ALL the consultants who prosper by convincing the Aboriginal people that using them (the consultants) is the only way to succeed.

7. Why do “religions” have to create ideological issues that are nothing more than self-serving myths designed to create “us-them” cohesiveness and prejudice. Millions of hours of time: pro-life or pro-choice, gays allowed to marry within the church (or be leaders within a church), evolution versus “creationism”, or in the “Jewish problem” in Germany in the 1930’s and 1940″. Defining someone, or a group, as different is the beginning of racism. If “they” dress different from us . . . that is wrong, that is bad, that is DANGEROUS, that must be or “should be” illegal.

Okay, enough for now? Add to this with your “questions”.