No Olympic medals for “cultural” cowpokes

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2001:

SALT LAKE CITY–The Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the forthcoming Winter Olympic Games was expected to drop the scheduled February 9-11 Command Performance Rodeo from the Cultural Olympiad at a January 3 meeting with rodeo foes. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association could still hold the rodeo, but without an official Olympic connection.

SLOC president Mitt Romney “suggested that if calf-roping is in, then SLOC is out,” Salt Lake City mayoral spokesperson Joshua Ewing told Brady Snyder of the Deseret News, “so we’re assuming that since calf-roping is still included, SLOC is out.” Confirmed Caroline Shaw, spokesperson for Romney, to Mike Gorrell of the Salt Lake Tribune, “Mitt is relatively insistent that calf-roping not be one of the events.”

Cultural Olympiad artistic director Raymond T. Grant on December 3 relayed to PRCA commissioner Steven J. Hatchell a request from Romney that calf roping be excluded, after Romney said at least three times after a November 29 meeting with rodeo opponents that calf roping might be dropped for being too violent. At the meeting, said Eric Mills of Action for Animals, “Grant was the main guy promoting the rodeo.” [Mention of Mills and Vancouver Humane Society representative Debra Probert was accidentally lost from the ANIMAL PEOPLE coverage of the meeting.]

According to Deseret News staff writer Snyder, Grant told the PRCA that, “Having engaged the animal rights activists, this engagement needs to produce some results. I recognize that the result might very well be the PRCA saying to me that what was suggested is not acceptable to the PRCA.” The PRCA reportedly responded that, “Since we have not been asked or given an ultimatum, our plan is to proceed as scheduled. We have a contract for the rodeo, and that includes calf roping.”

Pledged Steve Hindi of SHARK, “If the rodeo plans continue, the Olympics are in for a very rough run. The SHARK Tiger video truck is being readied for a rendezvous with the Olympic Torch Relay on January 4 in Illinois. From then on, the Tiger will relentlessly follow the Torch,” through a 31-stop itinerary, “and right into Salt Lake City. The Tiger will not be at the Olympic rodeo, but will instead patrol legitimate Olympic events, where it will be seen by far more people from around the world. Nevertheless, there will be protesters outside the rodeo grounds, and investigators inside to
report on whatever happens to the animals.”

PETA also planned to follow the Torch Run, and on January 1 put up a billboard opposing the rodeo in Salt Lake City .
Protests at the rodeo site, the Davis County FairPark in Farmington, Utah, were to be led by the Utah Animal Rights
Coalition. The Farmington city council withdrew and rewrote a draft anti-protest ordinance in early December on the advice of the American Civil Liberties Union, but will still require demonstrators to obtain permits 10 days in advance.

Hindi, Tony Moore of the Foundation Against Animal Cruelty in Europe, and Mathilde Mench of the German groups Initiative Anti-Corrida and Animal 2000 on Dec-ember 19 flew to Lausanne, Switzer-land, to meet with International Olympic Committee medical director Patrick Schamasch, M.D.Schamasch told them that even if the rodeo is held as part of the Cultural Olympiad, it will not be allowed to call the event an “Olympic competition” or give “Olympic medals” to the winners.”Schamasch declared that there will be no Olympic medals, real or imitation, given to the contestants,” Hindi affirmed. “That brings to an end any fantasy the rodeo people had about being Olympians.”

An obvious distinction between the Command Performance Rodeo and other Olympic-related events, pointed out Mills, is that “The rodeo cowboys are the only contestants competing for prize money–$140,000, according to the PRCA. Rodeo animals,” Mills continued, “are the only contestants forced to compete through the use of electric prods, bucking straps, spurs, ropes, tail-twisting, kicks, slaps, pain and fear.” Officially, the Olympic Command Performance Rodeo is not even offered as an athletic competition, despite the pretense of rodeo cowboys to athleticism. Instead it is to be repeated daily, February 9-11, as part of the Cultural Olympiad, which usually features music, dancing, and theatrical events considered representative of the host nation.

A rodeo was also part of the Cultural Olympiad at the 1988 Winter Olympics, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, but drew little protest because most animal activist groups knew nothing about it until after it was held. The frequent violent fate of rodeo animals was shown meanwhile at the National Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas on December 9 when a 14-year-old bucking horse named Great Plains suffered a broken back during a ride by William Pittman II of Florence, Mississippi.

In November, a mare was killed and a calf reportedly badly hurt at the American Royal Rodeo in Kansas City. According to the most recent available PRCA data, 38 animals were injured at 57 officially sanctioned rodeos in 1999–meaning that the PRCA itself admits that animals are injured at two-thirds of rodeos. Rodeo opponents believe the actual injury rate is far higher.

Rodeo cowboys too are often injured, and not just by falling off or being dragged by the animals they try to ride or rope. In Rockhampton, Aust-ralia, Central Queensland Fertility Clinic science director Simon Wal-ton has linked bull-riding and riding bucking horses to reduced sperm counts among contestants, though not to the point of inducing sterility.

University of New Mexico researcher Loren Ketai, meanwhile, has found that recreational horse riders suffer more head injuries than rodeo performers when bucked off an animal–but recreational riders are rarely trampled by the animal who bucked them, whereas rodeo performers are trampled twice as often as they hit their heads.

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