Welcome to Thursday, where a Chinese official meets with Taliban leaders, an earthquake triggers a tsunami alert in Alaska, and rock fans mourn the death of a bearded icon. With the Tokyo Olympics finally underway, Hong Kong-based digital media The Initium also asks a tough question: Do we even still need this sporting event?
• Chinese official publicly meets with Taliban: China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, began two days of talks with Taliban leaders on Wednesday in the Chinese city of Tianjin. After the withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops, Afghanistan has seen significant fighting between the Afghan security forces and the Taliban. China hopes to use the meetings to assist in this peace process, as well as to warm ties with the Islamist group.
• Earthquake in Alaska triggers tsunami alert: After an 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck the Alaskan peninsula on Wednesday, U.S. officials have released tsunami warnings for the surrounding area and encouraged increased monitoring across the Pacific. So far there have not been any reports of loss of life or serious property damage.
• Vocal Chinese billionaire sentenced to 18 years in prison: Sun Dawu, a billionaire pig farmer and outspoken critic of the Chinese government, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison on charges that include "picking quarrels and provoking troubles." He has also been fined 3.11 million yuan ($480,000).
• COVID update: Australia's largest city, Sydney, has seen a record daily rise in cases, leading the government to seek military assistance in enforcing the ongoing lockdown. In contrast, the United Kingdom announced that fully vaccinated travelers coming from the EU or the U.S. no longer need to quarantine when entering England, Scotland and Wales. Meanwhile, Google has mandated that employees be vaccinated to return to in-person work in October.
• Macron sues billboard owner for depicting him as Hitler: French President Emmanuel Macron is suing a billboard owner for depicting him on a sign as Adolf Hitler. The poster shows Macron in Nazi garb with a Hitler-esque mustache and the phrase "Obey, get vaccinated." This comes after several protesters who see France's new health-pass system as government overreach invoked the yellow star that Nazi Germany forced Jewish people to wear during WWII.
• ZZ Top bassist dead at 72: Dusty Hill, the bassist for the Texas blues-rock trio ZZ Top, died in his sleep on Tuesday at the age of 72. Hill, known for his trademark long beard, played with the band for over 50 years.
• Earth Overshoot Day: Today marks the day that humanity has exceeded its yearly allotment of the planet's biological resources. Last year, Overshoot Day fell on August 22, after carbon emissions dropped during COVID-related lockdowns. But this year carbon emissions and consumption rose again, and Overshoot Day moved forward by almost one month.
Peruvian daily Expreso reports on the presidential inauguration of leftist Pedro Castillo, who promised a new constitution for the country as well as an end to corruption. The 51-year-old rural schoolteacher was sworn in yesterday as Peru's president (the fifth in three years) on the 200th anniversary of the country's independence from Spain.
Are the Olympics more trouble than they're worth? The view from Asia
After a five-year wait, the Tokyo Olympics are finally underway, but the challenges remain palpable. From global politics to the pandemic, problems abound for the Games. Next year, when Beijing hosts the Winter Olympics, things could get messier still, writes Zhang Bin in Hong Kong-based digital mediaThe Initium.
Tokyo 2020 comes with its own complicated backdrop of world geopolitics, especially with regards to Sino-U.S. and Russian-U.S. relations. Adding to the unrest are issues related to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. This April, the IOC banned protests and campaigns during Tokyo 2020, but the rules were changed in July, allowing athletes to kneel in protest before the games, but prohibiting actions during the games and on the podium, including wearing clothes with the BLM slogan.
There's another shadow on the horizon, as talk has already surfaced in some Western countries about boycotting the Beijing 2022 winter games. China, for its part, strongly opposes "politicizing sports." So far, there are no IOC members or athletes publicly joining the boycott, but many reports suggest that the U.S. and the EU are preparing bills to resist Beijing. There's also been pressure on British government officials and members of the royal family not to attend.
This leads us to a question worth pondering: Does humanity still need a sporting event with such a hefty program and bloated schedule? Truth be told, people may not really need the Olympics that much anymore. Many of the events aren't all that exciting, and the schedule is dense. All of that affects the viewing experience. It appears, in other words, that the Olympics are gradually losing their meaning. Their idealistic color is faded. They're no longer a symbol of world peace, and their importance as a source of national pride has diminished.
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