Monday, 23 July 2012

Olympic Timing A Disadvantage For Some

For the last couple of weeks global media seems to have been solely focused on the Olympics, their security or lack thereof and the looming Heathrow strike.

This is never more so than in New Zealand where we have seen images and video of past glories, departing athletes and even the departing media themselves!

Singapore has pinned its hopes on the likes of weightlifter Helena Wong, the first woman to compete for the country in this Olympic event.  No doubt the table tennis team will be strong again but the real surprise might be a 17-year-old swimmer Joseph Schooling who was named Sportsman of the Year in May.

However it was another media report that captured my interest this week.

My Muslim friends in Asia and elsewhere are celebrating the most important religious festival of their year - Ramadan.  During this time strict fasting is observed during the day and I recall many of my Singaporean colleagues would practice this observance.

Unfortunately Olympics 2012 coincides with the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar this year, which as as the BBC reported, places athletes from Islamic countries at a serious disadvantage.  Fewer carbohydrates in means less energy out.  Not to mention the early morning / pre-dawn ritual and going without drink in the heat of a London summer.

Mind you in the latter case there hasn't been much of a summer; in the great British tradition there has been plenty of moisture and little sun.

Hopefully the next event in Rio will not clash with a major religious observance of any faith or creed.
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1 comment:

Limpeh Foreign Talent said...

Having worked with Muslim colleagues over the years, may I offer some observations to the contrary.

Not all Muslims observe the fast strictly - there are exceptions to the rule for example, starting with those who are very ill and are in no physical condition to go without food for daylight hours without endangering their health. And then there is the very young, the very old and some pregnant women, for the very same reason. Furthermore, there are those Muslims who have to work under the hot sun in the Ramadan months and not drinking any water in those daylight hours could easily mean a heatstroke (esp in a place like Dubai or Singapore) - not all Muslims have the luxury of sitting in an air-con office and working in a comfortable desk job, so facilitate their Ramadan activities.

I remember speaking to this sports instructor at the Outward Bound School on Pulau Ubin who is a Malay and a Muslim about this and she said, "What do you expect me to do? You want me to Puasa, but 3 or 4 hours of rock climbing or running around in this heat with no water, you will faint.
I have fainted before so I simply cannot fast, or at least I must drink water. I cannot tell my employers, oh it's ramadan, I want to sit in the air-con office please. No, I have to work, to pay the bills, take care of my family, so I don't have the luxury of observing the fast. Such is the practicality of the situation lah, many Malays in the same situation do not fast because they have to work."

There you go, obviously I cannot speak on behalf of the Muslim athletes taking part in the Olympics on whether they wish to compete whilst fasting or if they would - like my Malay friend at OBS - but I wish to open your eyes to the Muslims who choose not to fast for work reasons. It was not like my OBS friend is the kind of Muslim who is not devout and breaks all the rules for the wrong reasons - no, she was being practical - she had to do hard, physical work under the hot sun to pay the bills, take care of her family, so she decides not to fast and that decision is between her and Allah. If some other Muslim athletes take the same decision for the Olympics - eg. if winning a gold medal would change the life for his/her entire family, then I won't be surprised if the Muslim athlete takes the same decision.

There you go - I think you looked at the issue in a very black/white simplistic manner. How many Muslim athletes do you know? Or do you have any Muslim friends who have to do hard physical labour under the hot sun in a hot country like Singapore or Dubai?