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(Olympics) IOC under fire for 'double standard' on hockey mask images

2018/02/14 14:22

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By Chang Dong-woo

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb. 14 (Yonhap) -- The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has come under fire for an alleged double standard in permitting images on hockey masks at the PyeongChang Winter Games.

The IOC allowed the U.S. women's hockey team goaltenders Nicole Hensley and Alex Rigsby to wear masks imprinted with the image of the Statue of Liberty in their match against Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) in the sub-host city of Gangneung on Tuesday.

The decision came as a surprise to many, as the Olympic-governing body had previously forced South Korean goalie Matt Dalton to remove an image of Admiral Yi Sun-shin, a legendary Korean naval commander and a national war hero most famous for a victory over Japan in 1597, from his mask, deeming the image political. Naturalized as a South Korean in 2016, Dalton decided to put Yi's image on his mask after seeing the admiral's statue at Gwanghwamun Plaza in Seoul.

This Reuters photo shows U.S. women's hockey team goaltender Nicole Hensley wearing a mask with an image of the Statue of Liberty at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on Feb. 13, 2018. (Yonhap) This Reuters photo shows U.S. women's hockey team goaltender Nicole Hensley wearing a mask with an image of the Statue of Liberty at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on Feb. 13, 2018. (Yonhap)

USA Today reported earlier, citing USA Hockey spokesman Dave Fischer, that the American team was working with the IOC to see whether the two goalies will have to remove the Statue of Liberty from their masks. That apparently wasn't the case, as seen in the match against OAR.

IOC stated that it has not received any submission from the U.S. team for approval of the Statue of Liberty image, signaling that it has not taken any proactive measures to deal with the matter.

"On the Team USA hockey helmet 'story' - there seems to have been a misunderstanding, we have not asked for the symbol to be removed," the IOC posted on Twitter on Tuesday.

In light of the go-ahead nod for the Statue of Liberty image, the South Korean hockey team lodged a complaint with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). The team was told to make a formal request to the IOC through the Korean Sports and Olympic Committee.

The Olympic-governing body also banned Shin So-jung, a goaltender of the Korean joint women's hockey team, from wearing a mask bearing an image of her late father. A representative at the Korea Ice Hockey Association stated that the IOC argued against the use of specific figures in the masks of the two Korean athletes.

"The two U.S. women's team goalies are backup players, so I don't think they'll have much time on ice. But still it's not fair for the U.S. to be approved and not us," a representative of the South Korean men's hockey team said.

The IOC's seemingly dubious understanding and enforcement of the Olympic Charter is hardly new. CBS Sports reported that before the 2010 Vancouver Games, the IOC asked American goalie Ryan Miller to remove the words "Matt Man"-- a reference to Miller's cousin Matt, who had passed away from cancer at age 18 -- from the back of his helmet.

Miller fought the ruling and was allowed him to keep the tribute on his mask, prompting theories that it was possible only because he was a player with North America's National Hockey League, which undoubtedly has a lot of sway with the IIHF and IOC. Some argued that the sports bodies were pandering to Japan.

Many South Koreans took to social media and the Internet to vent about the IOC and IIHF's inconsistent standards.

"America is powerful and we are still powerless," Naver user "Shininglauncher" commented on a news item on the web portal. Twitter user, @cheewoo2, wrote, "It's not often the host country is neglected, but beyond neglect, we're being mistreated."

   When asked for a comment on the controversy, IOC spokesperson Mark Adams offered a general response, saying, "We work very hard with a lot of the (national Olympic committees) in recent years to raise up any issues they might have."

  

In this file photo, South Korea hockey goalie Matt Dalton wears a mask bearing the image of Admiral Yi Sun-shin in an Olympic tune-up game against Kazakhstan at Seonhak International Ice Rink in Incheon on Feb. 3, 2018. (Yonhap) In this file photo, South Korea hockey goalie Matt Dalton wears a mask bearing the image of Admiral Yi Sun-shin in an Olympic tune-up game against Kazakhstan at Seonhak International Ice Rink in Incheon on Feb. 3, 2018. (Yonhap)

odissy@yna.co.kr

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