An Insight Into the World Deaf Sport Organization

(Printed in Achieve magazine, November 2006, page 18-20) 

Achieve: How did it start?  What was the purpose? Who are the people that are behind it all?

As we all know very well, sport has historically been one of the rewarding reasons for people from different countries to gather in unity, which holds very true for deaf people all over the world.

As early as 1890’s, England and Scotland held a first international football match, which later attracted two other neighboring countries to join- France and Belgium.  Those deaf sport enthusiasts ultimately realized that to arrange an international event in a fair and honest manner there should be a uniformed set of rules and regulations. Thus, they saw a need for an international governing body of deaf sports.

In 1924, two notable Deaf sports leaders- Eugène Rubens-Alcais of France and Antoine Dresse of Belgium helped establish a new governing body called the Comité International des Sports Silencieux (CISS). At that time, the goals of CISS were to establish mutual cooperation among deaf sports federations and to govern the newly established International Silent Games, held every four years.  The name of the organization- CISS  and International Silent Games have changed over time and now it is known as International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD) and Deaflympics respectively.

Deaf athletes participating in the Deaflympics get an opportunity to enjoy that same Olympic experience as their hearing counterparts.

It is important to point out that Deaf people have always managed the ICSD organization. Currently, the president is a deaf woman, Dr. Donalda Ammons, of the USA.  Voting members of the Executive Committee are David Lanesman (Israel), Vice President, Josef Willmerdinger (Germany), Sport Director, and three at large members-Dogan Ozdemir (Turkey), Siv Fosshaug (Switzerland) and Yang Yang (China). Non-voting members of ICSD are representatives from four regions within ICSD:  Peter Kalae (Kenya) for Africa Chih-ho Chen (Chinese Taipei) for Asia-Pacific, Isabelle Malaurie (France) for Europe, and Maria de Bendequz (Venezuela) for Americas.

Where does ICSD fall in the structure of IOC?  Is there any legal recognition from IOC to ICSD?  Does ICSD have the same powers as IPC?   Where does UKDS come in the structure of ICSD?

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recognized ICSD since 1951, with a reception to recognize and appreciate its high standard of administration and sports activities.

Then in May 1955, the IOC announced its unanimous recognition of the ICSD as an “International Federation with Olympic standing.”  With this recognition given, it was mutually agreed that the world “Olympic” and five ring emblems would not be used by the ICSD.

In 1966, the IOC recognized ICSD with a prestigious award called the Olympic Cup that was created by Baron de Coubertin in 1906.  It was to show its high regard for ICSD services to sports.

At their meeting in May 2001, the IOC Executive Committee voted to approve the change in the name of our quadrennial event from Deaf World Games to Deaflympics. With this new name, we have to abide by IOC regulations that say we cannot use the following:

  1. the term- "Games" in connection with the Events.
  2. the mark of DEAFLYMPICS to identify the ICSD.
  3. the mark of  DEAFLYMPICS on ICSD letterhead or any other printed materials.
  4. And that all members of ICSD shall abide by those restrictions aforementioned.

We are aware that deaf sport was organized at an international level long before other disabled sports.  Despite this fact, we see a continued effort to consolidate resources and national organizations for disabled sports around the world exerting heavy-hand pressure on deaf sport federations to join ranks with them. The pressure has not necessarily been very successful because Deaf athletes do not see themselves as disabled athletes and they have become empowered and resolute in safeguarding their self-determination.  Keeping this in mind, ICSD remains deeply committed to preserving the aims and principles of Deaflympics.

ICSD has similar powers as the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) but does not receive the same funding for its competitions.  ICSD and IPC are listed as recognized federations of IOC and are under the Sport Department, headed by Mr. Kelly Fairweather.  The big distinction in this respect is that our quadrennial event- Summer and Winter Deaflympics, is governed by Deaf people and ICSD whereas the Paralympic Games are administered by IOC Games Department, under Mr. Gilbert Felli.  The IOC Games Department has the critical responsibility for the oversight and coordination of the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games.  The Paralympic Games are held in the Olympic host city under the responsibility of the Olympic Games Organizing Committee ten days after the Olympic Games.

ICSD is a member of the General Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF), founded in 1967.  It is a body of the International Sports Federations and various associations. Its mission is to maintain the authority and autonomy of its members, promote closer links between its members and all sports organizations, coordinate and protect common interests and collect, verify and disseminate information.

UK Deaf Sports (UKDS) is recognized as one of 94 full members under the ICSD organization. As a full member, UKDS is eligible:

  1. to enter their athletes in any Deaf World Championships, ICSD-sanctioned competitions and official ICSD competitions sanctioned by the ICSD;
  2. to vote at meetings of the Congress at which they are present;
  3. to nominate persons from their national associations for committees of the ICSD; and
  4. to participate in all competitions, events and activities of the ICSD.

What is ICSD working on at the moment?  Just Deaflympics (both winter and summer) or any other championships?

The ICSD focuses on the Deaflympics and also on Deaf World Championships in various sports.  If you go to our website-, you will see our master calendar with a list of events under ICSD’s supervision.

At this moment, ICSD is gearing up for the 16th Winter Deaflympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, the host city of three Olympic-style events- the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games in 2002 and now the Winter Deaflympics in 2007.  It is anticipated that nearly 25 countries will bring top-notch athletes to Salt Lake City. 

Most recently during the year of 2006, we supervised the organization of three world championships- cycling, golf and orienteering. For 2007, it will be a more demanding year with seven world championships, as follows:

  • 22 Jun 2007 - World Deaf Basketball Championships - China (CHN)
  • 21 Jul 2007 - Dresse and Maere - Tennis Cup - München, Germany (GER)
  • 11 Aug 2007 - World Deaf Swimming Championships - Taipei, Chinese Taipei (TPE)
  • 28 Sep 2007 - World Deaf Badminton Championships - Muelheim/Ruhr, Germany (GER)
  • 6 Oct 2007 - World Deaf Bowling Championships - Singapore (SIN)
  • 8 Nov 2007 - World Deaf Futsal Championships - Sofia, Bulgaria

What is the aim of ICSD in the future?  Will there be more recognition globally as par with Paralympics?

ICSD will continue to uphold to its mission, which is to cherish the value the spirit of Deaflympics where Deaf athletes strive to reach the pinnacle of competition by embracing the motto of PER LUDOS AEQUALITAS (Equality through sport) and adhering to the ideals of Olympics.
The objects of the ICSD Mission Statement are:

  • to supervise the organization of successful Summer and Winter Deaflympics.
  • to promote and contribute to the development of sport opportunities and competitions, from grass-root to elite level, for Deaf athletes.
  • to support and encourage educational, cultural, research and scientific activities that contribute to the development and promotion of the Deaflympics.
  • to fully enforce a drug-free sport environment for all Deaf athletes in conjunction with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
  • to promote sports for Deaf athletes without discrimination for political, religious, economic, disability, gender or race reasons.

In sum, ICSD is committed to creating:

  • More and better athletes with higher standards for excellence
  • A significant level of international recognition
  • An increased and sound budget
  • An efficient and effective organization

With deaf people being resolute in adhering to ICSD mission and principles, we shall prevail with more and better recognition from the public domain and mutual respect among ourselves.