Exclusive: RYA "fooled" 1980 boycott sailors in Torch Ceremony invite
Friday, 06 January 2012
January 6 - The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) have "misled" the sailors affected by their boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics over an invitation to this year's Torch Relay ceremony in Weymouth, a group member maintains.
Gavin Simonds, a coordinator of the campaigners who seek both reparation from the RYA over their unilaterally applied boycott and a guarantee that no such action will be made again without a ballot, told insidethegames:
"The RYA have not invited us to the Torch Ceremony," he said.
"They have invited us to a reception that just happens to be on the same day.
"They have managed to elide two facts.
"We were completely fooled for a while.
"They have been quite disingenuous, as we thought what had happened meant we were being invited to the ceremony.
"But actually the RYA has nothing to do with the Torch Ceremony, which is being organised by the local authorities.
"So their invitation was wholly misleading. I am as invited as you are.
"If we want to rock up to the Torch Ceremony we can stand in the street and watch it.
"What the invitation amounts to is that we have been asked if we would like to attend the sailing heritage exhibition which is touring around the countryside and which will be in Weymouth on the day the Olympic Torch arrives on July 12.
"In essence we have been invited to go to an exhibition to celebrate the achievement of sailors whom the RYA didn't ban from competing at the Olympics.
"Once we had worked it out, it was not met with what I could call huge excitement."
Simonds, now 57, was originally selected with his brother Colin to represent Britain in the soling class in Moscow.
Last month, the group's request that the RYA – one of four national sports' governing bodies to support Margaret Thatcher's demand that the Games should be boycotted following the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan – should never impose a boycott without a ballot was effectively turned down by the RYA council.
The RYA said that in future cases they would "consult appropriately" but made no commitment to a ballot.
In their statement of response, the campaigners said the RYA had promised in writing in 2008 to invite the 1980 sailors to the Weymouth Olympic Opening Ceremony, adding: "The offer of attendance at a Torch Ceremony is no substitute."
Now it appears that even that offer has not been made.
"The RYA's whole existence is about promoting the sport," Simonds added.
"If you unpromote it by taking a sailor out of the Olympics, you should at the least consult your members about stepping away from your whole basis of existence.
"And if you don't trust your members, maybe there's a bigger question to be asked.
"If the RYA had been able in 1980 to say to the Government, 'we would love to stop the sailors competing but it's really difficult because we have got to ballot our members first', wouldn't they have been in a better place?
"I think they would have been in a much better place politically."
January 2012: Mike Rowbottom - The sailors still making waves about being forced to miss Moscow 1980
December 2011: Sailors forced to boycott 1980 Games "very disappointed" with RYA response to reparation campaign
November 2011: Sailors forced to boycott Moscow 1980 call on RYA to recompense for "stolen medals"