The role of sports chaplains is not being taken seriously by organizers of the Olympic Games that open on Friday in Sydney, Christian leaders in Australia claim. Although a group of about 80 chaplains representing 28 faith groups—including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism—has been assembled, their scheduling makes it impossible for athletes needing their services to see the same person on consecutive days, a departure from the Summer Olympics in Atlanta four years ago. At the same time, Christian leaders contend, veteran Australian Institute of Sport chaplains for swimming and athletics were passed over in favor of volunteers.The manager of Olympic Village Religious Services, Father Jim Boland, disputes critics of the chaplaincy program and said the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) has "bent over backwards" to provide a credible service. "They've gone far beyond what they have to do," he said. "The IOC (International Olympic Committee) contract allowed for one room, but they've provided five prayer rooms and two counseling rooms." Chaplians will be available 24 hrous a day to the more than 23,000 athletes and administrators of the Olympic Village through the two weeks of the Games, Boland said.Olympics organizers do not understand the nature of sports chaplaincy work, some Christian leaders maintain, an ignorance that is reflected in a schedule in which chaplains have been assigned to six-hour shifts every three days and may not enter the religious services center at any other time."SOCOG's organizers failed to realize that sports chaplaincy is based … on relationships and availability," said Anglican Bishop Brian King of Sydney. "This is especially needed in spontaneous situations, ...1
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