Wednesday, September 12, 2012

ESPN Films: Right To Play

I watched Right to Play by Frank Marshall on ESPN Classic in late August. The documentary was originally announced as part of the first ESPN 30 for 30 series in 2009. It did not air as part of the series, but premiered on Saturday, June 2, 2012 on ABC.

The film looks at the life of Johann Olav Koss, an Olympic gold medal-winning speed skater and founder of the international youth sports organization Right To Play. Koss is a former speed skater from Norway who is considered to be one of the best in history.

Koss made his Olympic debut at the 1992 Winter Olympics winning gold in the 1,500 m and silver in the 10,000 m. He finished seventh in the 5,000 m.

In 1994, Koss gained fame outside the speed skating world by winning three gold medals at the 1994 Winter Olympics in his native Norway. Spectacularly, he won all three races in new world record times. For his performance, he was named Sports Illustrated magazine's Sportsman of the Year in 1994.

While Koss was an Olympian, he participated in the Olympic Aid program. Olympic Aid was conceived in 1992 by the Lillehammer Olympic Organizing Committee (LOOC) in preparation for the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. The program raised funds for children in disadvantaged situations by building on the momentum of Olympic Games.

After spending some time studying medicine, Koss decided to dedicate himself to the cause. Within a decade, Koss had grown Olympic Aid into Right to Play, an international humanitarian agency that uses games and sports as a tool to teach, inspire and empower children in war-ravaged and distressed countries. The documentary includes a number of segments showing Right to Play staff on the ground in a number of countries.

Although it seems a little light on content compared to some of the other 30 for 30 documentaries, I enjoyed the film. Given that it ran outside of the 30 for 30 or ESPN Films promotion cycle, I don't think that it got the attention that it deserved. Right to Play is worth looking for. Unfortunately, it is not available on iTunes or Amazon.

Right To Play - Trailer from The Kennedy/Marshall Company on Vimeo.

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