Roping is raising Olympic ruckus

November 30, 2001

The Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT)

By Brady Snyder

On a day when Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney said he would work to ban calf-roping from the Olympic Command Performance Rodeo, U.S. Olympic Committee President Sandra Baldwin defended the rodeo as a cultural event.

"I personally feel that rodeos are part of Western heritage," Baldwin said.

Baldwin spoke with the Deseret News after the Utah Animal Rights Coalition distributed a press release to local media that implied Baldwin was against the Olympic rodeo — scheduled for Feb. 9-11 at the Davis County Fairpark.

Baldwin said UARC misrepresented what she was relating in a Nov. 2 e-mail that said, "(The rodeo) is not a USOC program and assuredly is not a program we would have approved." The message, Baldwin said, was taken out of context.

"(The rodeo) is a SLOC organized program and has nothing to do with the USOC," Baldwin said. "What I was trying to say was that it's not something we would have approved because it doesn't fall under our operation."

Also Thursday, during an hour-long meeting with leaders of several national and international animal-rights groups, Romney said he would work to eliminate calf-roping at the rodeo — an official event of SLOC's Cultural Olympiad.

The decision came after activists showed Romney videos of calves being violently yanked off their feet during roping competitions.

The SLOC boss also said he would seek to have an independent observer make certain the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association adheres to its own rules regarding humane animal treatment during the event.

While Romney maintains that the rodeo will go on, he used the phrase "assuming there is a rodeo" several times during the meeting.

Even if SLOC wanted to, Romney said, it would be hard to stop the rodeo so close to the Games since contracts have been signed and tickets sold.

Earlier this month, Romney asked SLOC's executive board members if they wanted to cancel the rodeo, but the board took no action.

Activists walked away from Thursday's meeting pleased but said they still expect to protest during the Games if the rodeo occurs as planned.

"We will protest, but we will also acknowledge that they did take these steps," said Steve Hindi, head of Showing Animals Respect and Kindness.

Many groups have argued that rodeos are inherently cruel to animals and don't follow Olympic ideals of peace and goodwill. Groups like UARC, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and others — including gold-medal figure skater Scott Hamilton — have said that the rodeo will give the Olympics a black eye.

Baldwin said she has received thousands of e-mails from people asking for the rodeo to be stopped.

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