By Erin Levi
Prolific Bukharian sports journalist and author Rafael Pinchas has penned a new book titled «The Centennial of the Olympic Winter Games: 1924 — 2024,» published by Kaykov Media (2023).
Pinchas, who has written nearly 10 books about the lesser-known Deaflympics, including one on «the Deaflympic Games and the Jews,» spent the last 50 years working on his latest tome, a 254-page encyclopedic read, just in time for the upcoming anniversary on January 25, 2024, commemorating the first Winter Olympics hosted in Chamonix, France in 1924.
Our modern-day Olympics are owed to visionary Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin, «who revived the tradition of sports competitions in ancient Greece,» writes Pinchas. He convinced the «youth of the world» to compete not just «on the battlefield, but on the sporting arena.»
The Winter Olympics, however, took even more convincing. They were dominated by the Scandinavian countries who had their own Nordic Games and were not interested in «bringing the original winter sports to the world stage.» He added that they were confused by de Coubertin’s idea of introducing winter sports when they were never part of the Olympic games in ancient Greece. Despite this protest, de Coubertin managed to garner enough interest in an «International Winter Sports Week» in the ski resort of Chamonix, which already had a ski jump. Organizers added a bobsled run, ice stadium and ski trails for the 260 athletes from 16 countries who were due to compete under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Subsequently, de Coubertin was able to rename the event as the 1st Winter Olympics.
The US and Norway, which have both consistently participated in all 24 Winter Olympic Games, hold the top two positions in medal rankings, with 330 and 405 medals respectively. Remarkably, the Soviet Union, only participating in 9 games, managed to rack up 217 medals, securing a commendable 6th place among the 42 participating countries.
An antisemitic attack rendered the author deaf
Pinchas, now in his mid-80s, is deaf (although he can read lips). He lost his hearing during childhood in former Soviet Tashkent due to an antisemitic attack—Muslim kids in his class poured sand into his ear and the doctor only made things worse. «It was malpractice,» he said to me during our meeting at the BJCC last week. I shivered from the inhumanity of it all, but was soothed by his resilience, and inspirational ability of turning his «weakness» into an asset.
A Deaflympics specialist, he’s written multiple books, including the «The History of the Deaflympics,» the sole exhaustive record on the subject, claims Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., where Mr. Pinchas earned his bachelor’s degree.
Beyond his professional achievements, Pinchas has a fascinating personal story. In fact, his connection to the Deaflympics played a pivotal role in his decision to defect from the Soviet Union, sparked by disputes with the former chairman of the National Association of the Deaf of the Russian Federation about the 12th Deaflympic Summer Games in Malmo, Sweden.
(Earlier in his life, Pinchas was a courageous student, leading a revolt against a corrupt school administration. Despite mailing a detailed letter to Leonid Brezhnev, then General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, about the school’s abusive practices, he was expelled due to the absence of freedom of expression in the Soviet Union.)
Like the Winter Olympics, the Deaflympics, first held in Paris in 1924 as the International Silent Games for the Deaf, is commemorating its centennial this year as well. Pinchas will be coming out with a new book on that topic before summer.
«The Centennial of the Olympic Winter Games» can be found at the Olympic World Library. To purchase, contact Mr. Pinchas at Deaflympics.firstname.lastname@example.org/