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 — 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.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY
- Indonesia and Gabon celebrate their independence days.
- Today at the 2016 Rio Olympics: medal events in beach volleyball, sailing, taekwondo, and equestrian.
AUSTRALIA TO CLOSE OFF-SHORE DETENTION CENTER
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."
TRUMP SHAKES UP PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN, AGAIN
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."
— ON THIS DAY
Featuring the first animated cartoon ever to be shown, 108 years ago! More on your 57-second shot of History.
GERMAN GOVERNMENT NAMES TURKEY KEY PLATFORM FOR ISLAMISTS
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.
SPAIN COULD SOON HAVE A GOVERNMENT
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."
— MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD
First Taste Of Greece — 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.
MORE STORIES, BROUGHT TO YOU BY WORLDCRUNCH
- Media Freedom And Responsibility In Terrorism Coverage — Süddeutsche Zeitung
- Racing To Save Bali's Endangered Starling — KBR
- Turkish Editor Can Dundar: Why I Am Forced Into Exile — Cumhuriyet
BAD TRIP TO IKEA
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.