Captive Athletes: the link between the Olympics and the captive cetacean industry


          There is something special
about watching the world come together to watch a live sports event.
For a brief moment, all the happenings of the world become dim
background noise as the audiences of each nation hold their breath,
waiting to see who will earn one of the coveted medals. Athletes from
all over the world compete against the best of the best until a few
come out on top, crowning them victor in their sport of choice.

I think
it’s safe to assume you all know I’m referring to the Olympics.
everyone enjoys the Olympics. It’s exhilarating to watch top athletes
try their hearts out to try to win a gold medal. We cringe at their
mishaps, grieve when it costs them their winning chance, rejoice when
they reach their goals, and become inspired when we see an underdog
rise to the top. But what happens when the Games are over? We turn
off our televisions and return to the “real world”, whether that
be work or school or other daily activities. The athletes board a
plane and go home to their families, with or without a medal, and
continue to train for their next event.
But what
if some of them didn’t get to go home? What if they were left
somewhere unfamiliar, isolated, and far away from their homeland? And
what if that’s where they were expected to spend the rest of their
For two
orcas, who were recently taken from the wild along with five others,
this is looking to be a definite possibility. The Sochi Winter
Olympics, hosted by Russia, is planning a grand display of these two
orcas for their opening ceremony. In order to get to the planned
display, they will have to fly across seven times zones, only to end
up in a tank where they will spend the rest of their lives, away from
their families and their home, suffering the same ill effects other
captive cetaceans experience. While we humans enjoy rooting for our
athletes, these two creatures, athletes in their own right, will be
nothing more than entertainment, another means for monetary gain with
not a second thought given to their welfare. No matter how well they
perform, after the scores are given and the medals are handed out and
the victors are named, they don’t get to go home. The thought of that
puts quite the damper on the Olympic celebrations.
To further
my disgust, it’s also been stated that they intend for a Black Sea Bottlenose dolphin(an endangered species, mind you) to take part in
the Olympic torch relay. The intention is for a trainer to hold onto
the fin of this dolphin with one hand while carrying the torch in the
other. This is scheduled to happen in a small pool at the Black Sea
resort on February 4th, three days before the opening
ceremony. The degrading aspect of this aside, I can’t help feeling
like this is an accident waiting to happen. After all, fire isn’t
exactly on the list of things aquatic animals tend to encounter.

When I first
heard about these plans, I wasn’t sure what to feel, other than
dumbfounded. How is it possible for humans, the supposed superior
species, to continue to use these self aware and intelligent
creatures for profit, despite all of the science and research that
says captivity is detrimental to their well being? But then I
remembered; sometimes greed takes the front seat instead of

Those in
charge of the opening ceremony probably wish we would all ignore this
little fiasco and look the other way. But, in all honesty, the only
thing I’m looking away from is my TV screen. I’m not asking you to
not watch the opening ceremony or to even boycott the Olympics. All
I’m asking is that when you’re watching the skiers take those daring
leaps or the figure skaters displaying their fine tuned skill and
grace, you remember the athletes that don’t get to go home and don’t
win any medals. I know someone out there is likely wondering what the
big deal is. It’s just a few animals, why worry about them when
there’s the Olympics to focus on? To them I say:
If I don’t worry about them, who will?

For those interested in contacting the
International Olympic Committees with your concerns:
President Thomas Bach
Chateau de Vidy
Case postale 356
1001 Lausanne
Phone: +41 21 621 61 11
Fax: +41 21 621 62 16
Please sign the petition!