Winter Deaflympic Games fiasco starts to unravel

Light is starting to shed on who is to blame for Slovakia’s international shame over the failed organisation of the Winter Deaflympic Games.

Claims that the government should have stepped in and done something were brushed aside by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport in a statement that says it had absolutely nothing to do with the event and so had no say in it.

The Deaflympics were basically organised by NGOs and private individuals without any consent from the Ministry, which had already gone against Slovakia bidding for the games back in 2006 because of the huge financial demands.

This did not deter the Slovak Association of Deaf Athletes (SZNS), which put in a candidate application, and so it went ahead organising the games on its own steam anyway. It eventually got the green light from the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD), but the Committee did not make adequate follow-up checks, and did not have any contact with the facility owners or other organisational elements.

The Ministry is therefore pointing the finger for the scandal at both the SZNS and the ICSD. Head of the Slovak Deaflympics Committee, Jaromir Ruda, has all but gone underground amidst accusations of embezzling some EUR 1.7 million, but he still claims complete innocence in the scandal. The case is already being investigated.

Ruda released a statement in which he denies any immoral behaviour or responsibility, saying he would be devoting his energy to setting things straight and getting money to pay debts as soon as possible, instead of answering media questions about who caused the cancellation of the Games.

Ruda did say, however, that he had been told in January that there would not be funding till the end of February, which would be too late. He did not clarify, though, what he did about it or why he let everyone believe till the last minute that the games would still go ahead, including the many athletes that had already travelled to the High Tatras for the games, or who had booked hotels and flights etc.

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