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TOPIC: olympic games

This Happened

This Happened - April 6: The Olympics Return

The first modern Olympic Games took place on this day 1896, in Athens, Greece.

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Cannes v. Paris 2024: On The Difference Between Banning Russian Athletes Or Artists

While the IOC decides whether to let Moscow’s athletes compete in the 2024 Summer Games, Russian film directors will again be fighting for the right to show their films.

PARIS — Before the Cannes Film Festival started last May, festival officials said that, in light of the war in Ukraine, Russian delegations and anyone associated with the government were not welcome.

Still, one Russian director was invited to show his film at the festival: Kirill Serebrennikov, who made “Tchaikovsky's Wife,” had been an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine.

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But his anti-Putin stance wasn’t enough for some. After his film premiered, an avalanche of criticism and calls to boycott all Russian films flooded the festival. At a press conference in Cannes, Serebrennikov said he understood the anger behind calls for total boycotts of Russians. But, he said, he did not agree with the “canceling” of a nation’s entire culture.

Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux defended the festival’s decision. “We don’t give in to political correctness, we don’t give in to cultural boycott,” he told Variety. “We go on a case-by-case basis.”

Now, France is asking similar questions about banning Russians with the 2024 Olympic games in Paris approaching.

In January, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) agreed that Russians could compete as neutral athletes, without their flag — a decision Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo recently said is unacceptable.

“As long as there is this war, this Russian aggression on Ukraine, it is not possible to pretend as though nothing has happened, to have a delegation that comes to Paris while the bombs continue to rain down on Ukraine,” Hidalgo told French public radio FranceInfo.

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Beyond Ukraine, How To Defend Against Drones As A Weapon-Of-Choice For Terrorists

The war in Ukraine has shown how civilian drones can be effectively used as weapons. Meanwhile in Paris, with preparations on to host the Olympics in 2024, the city is testing some unlikely solutions to make sure the devices can't be employed by terrorists.

PARIS — Police in Paris are busy walking through the worst-case scenarios. One is a drone appearing out of nowhere, undetected because it flies low and emits no radio waves thanks to its autonomous navigation. The reason? They've been tasked with protecting two major events being organized in France: the Rugby World Cup in September and October 2023, and then the Olympic Games in July and August 2024.

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How The War In Ukraine Turned The World Of Sport Upside Down

The Russian invasion of Ukraine forced the sport world to abandon its long-held political neutrality, including the Olympics and FIFA. Is this a one-off event or a sign of a fundamental shift in sport?

With hands clasped across his lap and slumped in his seat, Vladimir Putin slept. At least, that’s what he wanted people to believe when the Ukrainian delegation started its parade during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Putin slept, and the whole world went tense, worried about this new provocation in the context of escalating tensions between Moscow and Kyiv. It is Feb. 4, 2022: 20 days later, thousands of Russian soldiers crossed the Ukrainian border, marking the beginning of a long conflict with many consequences. Among the most unexpected, the myth of the political neutrality of the sports world exploded.

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"The Olympic Movement is facing a dilemma with the war currently raging in Ukraine," admitted Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), on Feb 28. Should we follow the line inherited from Pierre de Coubertin, making sport a tool for bringing people together, "beyond any political dispute?" Or should we focus on fairness, while the Ukrainian athletes cannot train, unlike their Russian opponents?

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Edna Namara and Beatrice Lamwaka

After Tokyo Olympic Golds, Uganda Guns To Become Africa's Next Sports Powerhouse

Success at the Tokyo Olympics inspired Uganda to step up its efforts to become a long-distance running powerhouse.

KAPCHORWA, UGANDA — Agong Micheal wants to become a Ugandan Olympic champion so badly that he skips his lunch every day to go for a run.

“Lunchtime is a waste of time,” he says.

The 17-year-old says his dream is to qualify for the Ugandan athletics team, win medals and receive the prize money that the country gives winners. Agong is on an athletic scholarship at Gombe Secondary School in Mpigi, a town in central Uganda. But when schools closed due to the coronavirus, he sought work as a laborer at the National High Altitude Training Centre, a state-of-the-art training facility under construction in Kapchorwa, in the eastern highlands. Although the facility is not open yet, working there gives Agong a rare opportunity to try out the course.

“One day I will be as famous as [Joshua] Cheptegei and [Peruth] Chemutai,” he says, referring to two Ugandans who won gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics last year.

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Frédéric Schaeffer

China's Ski Boom Is Bigger Than The Olympics

In 10 years, skiing has exploded in China. The Winter Olympic Games in Beijing and the growing middle class have served as springboards for this craze. Are we seeing the beginnings of a great skiing nation or should we put on the breaks?

GUANGZHOU — Chunli traded in her bare feet for snowboarding boots: "I saw some videos on Douyin [TikTok in Chinese] and it made me want to try it. It looks so cool!"

With her board between her mittens, the young student valiantly heads for the snowy slopes. In Douyin, it is -6°C (21°F) all year long and the snow is always there. No wind or sun. As for the mountains, they are only displayed on the walls.

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Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Games Of The Absurd: Beijing’s Olympics Of Politics And Pandemic

With both fans and diplomatic dignitaries missing, it’s an Olympics that recalls politically combustible Games of the past. COVID-19, like it did for the Summer Games in Tokyo, will also help haunt the premises. The good news is that the athletes will most likely take over our attention as soon as they hit the ice and snow.


The Olympic script includes the invoking of the spirit of friendly competition as a respite from geopolitics.

Yet the global sporting event has long struggled to separate itself from the biggest social and political events of the day: from the 1936 Berlin Games during Hitler's rise to power to the Black Power salute at the 1968 Mexico City Games to the PLO killings of Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972. There were also major tit-for-tat U.S. and Soviet boycotts of the 1980 Moscow and 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games.

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In The News
Jane Herbelin and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Controversial Olympic Kick Off, Ukraine Attack Plot, Message In A Bogey

👋 你好*

Welcome to Friday, where Xi and Putin meet as the Beijing Winter Olympics kick off, South Africa develops its own Moderna vaccine, and a 95-year-old message in a bottle is found on a Scottish golf course. We also look at what is making Latin America change its mind regarding coworking.

[*Néih hóu - Cantonese]

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​Why The Budding Xi-Putin Alliance Is Bound To Implode

Joined in their respective confrontations with the West, both the Chinese and Russian leaders are boasting about their burgeoning partnership. Yet there are fundamental reasons the love affair is unlikely to last.

- Analysis -

“Building a peaceful and better world, in a spirit of friendship, solidarity, and fair play…”

To that noble end, as stipulated by the Olympic Committee, the 24th Winter Games will be held in Beijing On February 4th.

Of course, these are no ordinary Olympics: as 20,000 Chinese volunteers are making preparations, there is growing momentum for a diplomatic boycott of the Games by Western leaders over China's record on human rights, with the White House having cited “ongoing genocide” as the main reason.

But as the West laments China’s abuses against ethnic minorities, its crackdown on Hong Kong and threats against Taiwan's independence, one political leader is nonetheless determined to attend in a spirit of friendship: Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin’s participation in the opening ceremony was confirmed last week during a one-hour video meeting between the Russian leader the head of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping.

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Chris W. Surprenant*

Transgender Athletes: The Fairness V. Inclusion Debate

In a majority of U.S. states, bills aiming to restrict who can compete in women's sports at public institutions have either been signed into law or are working their way through state legislatures.

Caught up in this political point-scoring are real people – both trans athletes who want to participate in competitive sports and those competing against them.

As a professor of ethics and public policy, I spend much of my time thinking about the role of the law in protecting the rights of individuals, especially when the rights of some people appear to conflict with the rights of others.

How to accommodate transgender athletes in competitive sports – or whether they should be accommodated at all – has become one of these conflicts.

On one side are transgender athletes who want to compete in the gender division with which they identify. On the other are political activists and athletes – especially biologically female athletes – who believe that allowing trans athletes to compete in women's divisions is inherently unfair.

So why is this issue so fraught? What's so special about women's sports? Why do women's divisions even exist? And is it possible to protect women's sports while still finding a way to allow transgender athletes to compete in a meaningful way?

Winners elicit outcry

Let's be clear: Few Americans would care about how to best accommodate transgender athletes if they were not winning events.

But that's exactly what has happened. In 2017 and 2018, Terry Miller, a trans woman, won the Connecticut women's high school track championships in the 55-meter, 100-meter, 200-meter and 300-meter events. Her closest and only real competitor those two years was Andraya Yearwood, who is also a trans woman.

In 2017 and 2018, Mack Beggs, a trans man, dominated the Texas 6A 110-pound girls wrestling division, capturing two state championships while compiling a record of 89 wins and 0 losses. Unlike in Connecticut, where athletes may compete as they identify, athletes in Texas must compete in the gender listed on their birth certificate.

While Miller, Yearwood, Beggs and others have triumphed in their respective sports, the number of transgender high school athletes is very low. Nor is there any evidence that athletes have transitioned for the purpose of gaining a competitive advantage.

Yet some legislators have latched onto these examples, using them as a basis for bills that ban all transgender teens from participating in gendered divisions that differ from their birth sex. But these bills don't solve the competitive imbalances that can occur with athletes like Beggs. Worse, they might prevent transgender teens from competing altogether.

Sports matter – with meaningful participation

Since studies have shown that kids who participate meaningfully in athletics have better mental and physical health than their peers who don't – and teens who identify as transgender are at a significantly greater mental health risk than their peers – it's a worthy goal to try to accommodate their desire to compete.

The phrase "participate meaningfully" is important. Someone who, for example, is nominally on a team but does not take the sport seriously does not participate meaningfully in competitive sports. Similarly, someone who takes a sport seriously but easily dominates all competition also does not participate meaningfully in competition.

Laurel Hubbard, a New Zealand weight lifter and the first openly transgender athlete to compete in the Olympic Games — Photo: in.gr_/Instagram

Youth sports organizations exist because we don't believe kids should compete against adults, and kids are further separated by age because age, for children, is a reasonably good proxy for skill and ability. Organizations like the Special Olympics and Paralympics exist to provide opportunities for people with physical and mental disabilities to participate meaningfully and compete against people with similar skill sets.

Male and female athletes are separated for the same reason.

The rise of women's sports

In 1972, the U.S. Congress extended Title IX of the Educational Amendments to the 1964 Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination in all federally funded education programs, including their associated athletics programs.

Title IX's impact on athletics for women and girls – and, as a result, U.S. culture – has been nothing short of dramatic. In 1970, fewer than 5% of U.S. girls participated in high school sports. Now 43% of high school girls participate in competitive sports.

Separating athletes by biological sex is necessary because the gap between the best male and female athletes – at all levels – is dramatic.

Serena Williams is not only one of the best female tennis players in history, she's one of the best female athletes in history. In 1998, both Serena and her sister Venus famously claimed that no male ranked outside of the ATP Top 200 could beat them. Karsten Braasch, the 203rd-ranked player ATP player at the time, challenged each to a set. Braasch beat Serena 6-1 and Venus 6-2.

"I didn't know it would be that difficult," Serena said after the match. "I played shots that would have been winners on the women's circuit, and he got to them very easily."

At the 2019 New Balance Nationals Outdoor, the national track championship for U.S. high school students, Joseph Fahnbulleh of Minnesota won the men's 100-meter with a time of 10.35 seconds. That same year, Olympic Gold Medal winner Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce ran the fastest 100-meter time of any female in the world – 10.71 seconds. Her time would have tied for 19th at that U.S. boys high school event.

One more example that's a bit different: In 2012, Keeling Pilaro, a 4-foot-8, 80-pound seventh grade boy, petitioned the New York State Public High School Athletic Association to play field hockey on his school's all-female team. It approved his petition.

As a seventh grader, Pilaro made the school's JV team. As an eighth grader, he made the varsity team. But players and coaches from other schools argued he had a significant advantage because he was a boy. During the summer before his ninth grade year, the league agreed. It ruled Pilaro could no longer participate because his "advanced field hockey skills' had "adversely affected the opportunities of females."

Fallon Fox, a transgender fighter in mixed martial arts, trains at her local gym — Photo: Sally Ryan/ZUMA

I point to these examples because, put together, they show that no fitness regimen, no amount of practice, and no reallocation of financial resources could allow the best female athletes at any level to compete against the best male athletes at that same level.

This advantage isn't simply a difference in degree – it's not just that male athletes are bigger, faster and stronger – but it's a difference in kind. Pound for pound, male bodies are more athletic.

Evaluating trans athletes on a case-by-case basis

So, how can we allow trans athletes to compete without giving them an unfair advantage over their competitors?

One proposed solution, as if taken from the pages of novelist Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron," is testosterone-based handicapping for events. Competitors would have their testosterone levels measured and then algorithms would determine their advantage. Then, competitors would be fitted with weighted clothes, compete on a different track or otherwise receive an appropriate handicap before competing.

But having a higher level of testosterone does not automatically make you a better athlete. Beyond this, while handicapping may be fine for a golf outing with friends, it isn't appropriate for serious athletic contests. The point of athletic competitions is to determine who is actually the best, not who is the best relative to handicaps.

Another proposed solution entails replacing gender divisions entirely with ability-level divisions. Yet this could hinder women's participation in sports. In a world with no female-only divisions, Serena Williams would still win some tennis tournaments, but they likely wouldn't be tournaments you've heard of.

So what's the most viable solution to this debate?

Since there is no typical transgender athlete, broad rules for transgender athletes don't seem appropriate.

Instead, language similar to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's disability accommodation policy could be used for transgender athletes: "The decision as to the appropriate accommodation must be based on the particular facts of each case."

"Men's' divisions could be eliminated and replaced with "open" divisions. Any athlete could be allowed to compete in that division.

Then, transgender athletes could be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Based on their athletic ability, a tournament organizer could determine which division is most fair for them to compete in, "women's' or "open."

For trans women athletes, at issue is their athletic ability, not their womanhood. If a tournament organizer determines that a trans woman athlete is too good to compete against other women because of her biological advantage, requiring her to compete in an "open" division does not undermine her humanity.

Instead, this acknowledges – and takes seriously – that she identifies as a woman, but that respect for the principles of fair competition requires that she not be allowed to compete in the women's division.

While whatever decision is made is unlikely to make all competitors happy, this approach seems to be the most fair and feasible given the relatively small number of transgender athletes and the unique circumstances of each athlete.The Conversation

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Chen Hongmin

China's Olympic Flop, "Planned Economy" Sports System To Blame


BEIJING — As the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro come to an end, the Chinese delegation's "failure" seems to be a foregone conclusion. Even in gymnastics, where it had excelled in the past, China won only two bronze medals, making it the worst performance of the past decade.

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