Olympic Paradox And Patriotism

The Olympic ideal is free of political conflict. But from Jesse Owens in Berlin to this year’s refugee team, some of the Games’ most striking images have sprung when sports and world affairs collide. So much so that the temptation is always great to think of the Olympics as a jersey-wearing reflection of current events.

As we near Sunday’s closing ceremonies, the three leaders of the medal table in Rio may offer lessons in the wobbly balance of world powers. A rising China apparently isn’t too happy about sitting third, trailing behind the UK and the U.S. The Chinese news agency Xinhua even called Team China’s performance “the worst Olympic flop.” But as Beijing-based Caixin points out, the fact that Chinese defeats no longer trigger tears and public apologies from the athletes may be a sign of a maturing global leader.

In second place sits Great Britain â€" the highest it’s been since 1908. In a country currently struggling with its sense of belonging in the wake of Brexit, independence supporters, including Eurosceptic-in-chief Nigel Farage, were quick to capitalize on Olympic patriotism, going as far as suggesting that UK’s success may actually have something to do with the decision to leave the European Union.

Meanwhile, at the top of the medal board and in the midst of highly charged presidential campaign, the U.S. has descended into online bickering about whether gymnast Gabby Douglas should have put her hand over her heart during the national anthem.

It all may leave us scratching our heads. And yet, if war is considered the continuation of politics by other means, then the Olympics are surely a better way to play.


  • Indonesia and Gabon celebrate their independence days.
  • Today at the 2016 Rio Olympics: medal events in beach volleyball, sailing, taekwondo, and equestrian.


The Australian government has agreed to close a controversial detention center for asylum seekers on the island of Manus, in northern Papua New Guinea, Australian broadcaster ABC reports. The people currently held at the center will either “transition into Papua New Guinea or return to their country of origin,” Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said. He added that “no one from Manus Island Regional Processing Centre will ever be settled in Australia.”


Donald Trump has hired Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, as his new campaign’s chief executive, and promoted a senior advisor to campaign manager in the second shake-up of his presidential campaign in two months, The New York Times reports. The newspaper says the changes, which occur as the Republican candidates appears to slip in the polls, show that Trump “has decided to embrace his aggressive style for the duration of the race.”


Featuring the first animated cartoon ever to be shown, 108 years ago! More on your 57-second shot of History.


A confidential German government document obtained by broadcaster ARD describes Turkey as “the central platform for action for Islamist groups in the Middle East.” This, the document says, is the result of a “step-by-step islamization of its domestic and foreign policy since 2011.” Though the document doesn’t mention terror group ISIS by name, it states that Turkey actively supports the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Palestinian Hamas and “armed islamist opposition groups in Syria.”


Turkey will release as many as 38,000 pre-coup prisoners who committed crimes before July 1 amid reports of overcrowded prisons due to the wave of arrests that followed a failed coup attempt, according to AFP.


Tensions remain high in Turkey following the July 15 failed coup attempt, with the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan focusing most of its wrath on the exiled imam Fetullah Gülen and the purge of his Gülenist followers. But Özgür Mumcu asks in this Cumhuriyet op-ed: Could Erdogan's reaction backfire? “Do you want the world to talk about the subsequent government crackdown more than the attempted coup? Do you want some questions on the coup attempt to remain permanent? Don't ever talk about what was going on during daytime hours of July 15. Don't ever talk about the intelligence failure, the absence of the force commanders or the conflicting statements on that day. You don't want social peace after the coup attempt? Alienate the legal Kurdish party HDP; raid their buildings with helicopters after midnight.”

Read the full op-ed, Turkey, The Boomerang Of Erdogan’s Post-Coup Crackdown.


The executive committee of Spain’s People’s Party is meeting today to decide whether to accept the conditions posed by Ciudadanos in exchange for their support to acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The PP came first in the June general election but the rise of newcomers right-leaning Ciudadanos and left-leaning Podemos means it needs a coalition partner. According to broadcaster La Sexta, the PP will accept Ciudadanos’ conditions, albeit with a few “tweaks.”


First Taste Of Greece â€" Igoumenitsa, 1961


California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in San Bernardino County yesterday as a wild fire continued to quickly spread, forcing more than 82,000 people to evacuate, ABC News reports.



Frankly, we’re not sure what to make of this one. Some youngish people decided to make a video series of youngish people taking hallucinogenic drugs and assembling IKEA furniture. The potential for culture interpretation is limitless: millennial nihilism, alternative consumerism, Internet over-exposurism. Too bad the videos are extremely boring.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

Running of the Bulls in Tafalla, northern Spain

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Здравейте!*

Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.

[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]


• Developing: Sudan leaders arrested amid military coup reports: Soldiers have arrested several members of Sudan's transitional government as well as civilian leaders, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has reportedly been put under house arrest, in what the information ministry called a military coup. Pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of the capital city Khartoum where there are reports of gunfire and clashes.

• Colombia's most wanted drug lord to be sent to U.S.: Colombia's most dangerous drug trafficker, known as Otoniel, was caught after a joint army, air force and police operation and faces extradition to the U.S. He led the country's largest criminal gang, and was on the U.S. most wanted list for years.

• Xi speech marks China's UN anniversary: China's President Xi Jinping marked the 50th anniversary of Beijing's entry into the United Nations with a speech calling for greater global cooperation, adding that issues like climate change, terrorism and cyber security needed multilateral solutions. Taiwan was not mentioned.

• German ISIS bride jailed for crimes against humanity: A German court has sentenced a German woman and former member of the Islamic State to 10 years in prison for letting a 5-year-old Yazidi enslaved girl die of thirst in Iraq. The case is one of the world's first trials to prosecute a war crime against the Yazidis.

• COVID update: The Beijing marathon scheduled next weekend has been postponed until further notice as China seeks to stamp out Delta variant outbreak and return to zero cases ahead of the Winter Olympics next February. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in Eastern Europe have surpassed the 20 million mark as the region fights against its worst outbreak since the pandemic started and vaccination efforts lag.

Goodbye, Gunther: U.S. actor James Michael Tyler, best known for his role as the barista Gunther on the TV show Friends, has died at 59 of prostate cancer.

• Sneakers record: A pair of Michael Jordan's white-and-red Nike shoes, which he wore during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, sold for $1.47 million — a new record price for sneakers at auction.


"The end of a boss," titles Colombian daily El Espectador, reporting on the arrest of drug lord Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, who had led Colombia's largest criminal gang and had been on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's most wanted list for years. He was captured in a raid and will be extradited to the U.S.



A Georgia man is being prosecuted for wire fraud after spending most of his business's COVID relief loan to buy one Pokémon trading card for $57,789.


How Thailand's "Lèse-Majesté" law is used to stifle all protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

👑 Thailand's Criminal Code "Lèse-Majesté" Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family. But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

🚨 The recent report "Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand," documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations." The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

💻 The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them. Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


"Children are going to die. People are going to starve."

— The United Nations warns that Afghanistan verges on a "total breakdown" as millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken by the international community. The agency calls for the release of frozen assets to avoid economic and social collapse, despite concerns over the Taliban government. A recent report said that about 97% of Afghanistan's population may sink below the poverty line, and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley warned that more than half of Afghanistan's population of 39 million were facing acute food insecurity and "marching to starvation" in comparison to 14 million two months ago.


Dutch cities have been secretly probing mosques since 2013

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talked to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Are you more Chicago Bulls or running of the bulls? Let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! info@worldcrunch.com info@worldcrunch.com!

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!