Believe it or not, it’s already June. Most of us have probably already started internships or summer jobs and will spend our free time lazing around in the sun, re-reading “The Hunger Games,” catching up on episodes of Modern Family and anxiously counting down the days until the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Before the games officially begin, the International Quidditch Association (IQA) will be hosting the first Olympic Expo Games in Oxford during the city’s torch lighting ceremony. According to the IQA website, the location was “intentionally [set] outside of London to avoid the complexities and security concerns in the city, and organized before the Olympics begin to make it more viable for press to come and cover the event.”
Team USA was selected by IQA Regional Directors, IQA founder Alex Benepe ’09 and team coordinator Luke Zak of the University of Minnesota, selected for his “experience and organizational skills in the sport.” Twenty-one first string players were selected, in addition to one snitch and one referee. In advance of the selection process, the IQA stipulated that Team USA would be made up of at least one player from six regions with a 5:2 gender ratio, or female players comprising 15% of the team.
A minimum of 11 players were selected based on their athletic abilities and experience with Quidditch. The remaining players were chosen due to their “fundraising, organizational, leadership and networking experience,” as well as their skill and experience with Quidditch. A second string team of understudies or “standby fliers” was selected based on the same qualifications in the event that a first string player becomes injured or is unable to attend the Expo.
The IQA received over 150 nominations for the Olympic Expo US team and in the end, not a single Middlebury Quidditch player was selected to represent the United States in Oxford.
An official statement from Middlebury Quidditch expressed disappointment in the lack of Middlebury representatives and threw support behind Team USA. Middlebury nominated players Adrienne Losch ’12 and Luke Greenway ’14.5 for the Expo Games. Losch is a beater and veteran member of two World Cup-winning teams. Greenway, too, is a beater, and competed on the most recent World Cup team. Scheduling conflicts and financial difficulties prevented more Middlebury Quidditch players from receiving nominations.
“It’s slightly de-legitimizing to the Olympic Team that nobody from the World Cup winning team is on the squad, although I don’t think the IQA or Quidditch community is worried about that,” Greenway said frustratedly.
Middlebury does not have any representatives within the organizational side of the IQA (aside from Benepe, of course), which Greenway believes has influenced the state of play in a manner that has created an anti-Middlebury bias of sorts.
“Middlebury is not a hyper-competitive sports school like many of the large universities that we’re seeing become prominent in Quidditch,” Greenway said. “We play the game because want to relax and have fun after a long week … That’s not to say that other schools aren’t playing for the same reason, but it’s my opinion that there are schools out there that are taking it too seriously,” alluding to the increasingly violent state of play.
Greenway added that many of the uber-competitive Quidditch teams have representatives within the IQA’s planning and organizational staff, thus creating a strained relationship with the IQA. “It’s difficult for Middlebury Quidditch players to want to be involved in an organization that doesn’t seem to share the same values or goals as our team.”
The perceived anti-Middlebury bias within the Quidditch community stems from opposing views on excessive violence and physical contact in the game and the College’s status as five-time World Cup champions and Quidditch founders. In other words, Middlebury Quidditch walks on to the playing field with a target on their backs due to their status as reigning champions and their pseudo-subversive lighthearted play. Regional coordinators within the IQA were contacted for comment but none responded.
What advantages Middlebury had during the earlier years of Quidditch no longer exist. “In my opinion we’ve become an underdog as a small liberal arts school competing against these huge universities. The advantage that we had from having invented the sport has worn off,” mused Greenway.
An official date for the Olympic Expo Games has not been confirmed yet. Teams from the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and France are expected to compete. In hosting the Expo Games, the IQA “seeks to showcase Quidditch as a new and dynamic sport to the world,” according to a statement on the organization’s website.
What do you think? Is Middlebury’s lacking presence at the upcoming Expo Games a natural result of the expansion and prevalence of Quidditch teams, or is the IQA being unfair?