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Human kinetics professors will lecture on sports management at world’s only Olympic University

Photo by Tina Wallace

Two human kinetics professors at the University of Ottawa will teach at the Russian International Olympic University (RIOU) in Sochi, Russia this month.

The university will see Benoit Séguin and Milena Parent joined by 17 other experts in the field from around the world to deliver sports management lectures.

The RIOU was established on Oct. 21, 2009 in partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It is the world’s first Olympic university dedicated to sports business.

“It’s brand new,” Parent said. “It’s a new concept. My understanding is that it even took the IOC by surprise when they proposed it.”

Parent, who specializes in strategic planning, organization, and governance in sports management, gained experience and research opportunities during the Vancouver 2010 games.

Séguin, who will lead a “business of sports and the Olympics” module, is a regular professor at the International Olympic Academy in Olympia and, along with Parent, has lectured at the Executive Master’s in Olympic Sport. His expertise lies in sports marketing and brand management.

“For us, it’s an honour to be going there,” he said.

Séguin said he is hopeful the U of O will gain new partnerships out of his and Parent’s attendance.

“Ottawa should be pretty proud two out of the 19 worldwide professors recognized in sport management (are attending),” said Parent.
She is one of only two female professors teaching at the RIOU. The other female instructor is Canadian professor Alison Doherty, who teaches at the University of Western Ontario.

“We are very proud that two of our professors are part of the few Canadians who are going to represent Canada and teach at the university,” said Caroline Millard, spokesperson for the U of O. “They have good expertise so we’re happy others will benefit from that expertise.”

Students at the school will receive a master’s in sports administration (MSA) and will focus on the main areas of sports management, including event and venue administration, diplomacy and administration, marketing, communications, and competition.

Similar to its professors, students will come from diverse backgrounds to learn the various modules condensed over a two-week period.

“My contract is a two-year contract and that constitutes two weeks of intensive teaching,” Parent said. “It’s actually equivalent to the number of hours of a full course at the University of Ottawa but just condensed into two weeks.”

Once finished teaching for two weeks in Sochi, both Parent and Séguin will supervise one or two MSA students while they complete their research papers.

Recent international boycotts concerning Russia’s anti-gay laws have placed a black stain on the Sochi games. Parent declined to comment on the issue, but Séguin pointed out this isn’t the first time the Olympics have been caught in controversy.

“The Olympics are a huge platform for protests and to be able to speak about some issues that are happening (n the host country),” he said.

He mentioned the Beijing 2008 Games and the coverage of human rights violations that went along with them during the days leading up to the opening ceremony. However, once the Olympic flame reached Beijing, the media attention surrounding the protests died down.

“I don’t think anything is going to happen that’s going to create this huge controversy during the Olympics,” he said.

The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) voted against a motion to live-stream the games because of Russia’s anti-gay laws.

“We are not going to validate a government that will promote this stance,” said SFUO vp equity Nicole Desnoyers in December.