The International Olympic Committee is standing by its decision to prevent athletes from wearing a sticker to honour freestyle skier Sarah Burke who died two years ago during training.
Ms. Burke had been a driving force in pushing to include ski halfpipe and slopestyle in the Olympics and many athletes wanted to honour her during the Sochi Games where the sports are debuting. But the IOC has banned the stickers saying it doesn’t allow “political statements” during competitions.
“She really needs to be well remembered, I think, and absolutely, we want to help the athletes to remember her in some way and there are all sorts of things we can do,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Monday. “From our side we would say that the competitions themselves, which are a place of celebration, are probably not the right place to really do that and we like to keep that separate”.
Adams said the athletes could hold a press conference or organize some kind of commemoration for Burke in the Games’ Multi Faith Centre. “For us it is a question of what is appropriate and where would be the best place. As I say, we are very keen to help people who want to have a remembrance or do something and to do that in what would be the appropriate place.”
The IOC’s decision has infuriated some athletes.
“I ride with a Sarah sticker on my snowboard and helmet always,” Australian snowboarder Torah Bright wrote in a post on Instagram. “The IOC however, considers Sarah stickers ‘a political statement’ and have banned them. WOW. Sarah is a beautiful, talented, powerful women, whose spirit inspires me still. She is a big reason why skier pipe/slope are now Olympic events.”
In an interview last month, Canada’s Mike Riddle, considered a favorite to win the ski halfpipe in Sochi, said Burke’s memory will be a constant presence at the Games.
"I know that she would have wanted us to keep pushing the sport and go to the Olympics and represent Canada as best as we could,” said Riddle who was a close friend of Burke’s. “She is going to be on our minds a lot the whole time we are there."
Some athletes including Canadian freestyle skier Roz Groenewoud are considering wearing a snowflake pendant or badge, similar to one Burke used as a tattoo. But that too may not be allowed under IOC rules.
IOC has sent a letter to the Norwegian Olympic Committee after four cross-country skiers wore black armbands during Saturday’s skiathlon in memory of the brother of a teammate. IOC officials said the letter was not a reprimand but a reminder of the rules.