Welcome To The Olymp-mess
July 22, 2021
The Good News
- Vet successfully performs surgery on graceful tree frog less than 2cm in length (ABC)
- A 99-year-old woman and a 2-year-old boy formed an unlikely friendship across their fence during the pandemic (NBC)
“You dream. You plan. You reach. There will be obstacles. There will be doubters. There will be mistakes. But with hard work, with belief, with confidence and trust in yourself and those around you, there are no limits.” — Michael Phelps
Welcome To The Olymp-mess
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are still on track to start Friday night, but scores of athletes will have to watch the competitions on TV from wherever they’re quarantining. And if any of those athletes still participating are thinking of protesting racism and hate online by taking a knee, their gesture won’t be seen on social media. The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 organizers banned their social media teams from posting pictures of athletes peacefully protesting after watching Britain’s Team GB’s women’s first football match against Chile on Wednesday. Shown on live TV were members of both those teams taking a knee, followed by players from the U.S., Sweden, and New Zealand. Questions arose about the IOC’s ‘knee-jerk’ decision, since the committee had previously relaxed the rules to allow for peaceful, respectful protest on the field of play.
A week earlier, July 14, South Africa’s Olympic football squad arrived in Olympic Village. On Sunday the 18th, Thabiso Monyane and Kamohelo Mahlatsi became the first athletes in the Village to test positive for Covid-19. Later that afternoon, six track and field athletes and two staffers from Team GB were forced to self-isolate, after coming into close contact on their flight to Tokyo with a member of the public who had the virus. On Wednesday, 400m hurdler Jessie Knight, 27, revealed she is one of the six athletes forced to self-isolate. Knight has repeatedly tested negative for Covid and continues to practice each day, so she expects to be able to compete in the finals of her event a week from Saturday.
The other five Team GB track and field athletes have also repeatedly tested negative for Covid. But Team GB shooter Amber Hill, the favorite for the skeet competition coming up on Sunday, was forced to withdraw after testing positive. The 23-year-old is No.1 in the world in her discipline. “There are no words to describe how I’m feeling right now,” she said. “After five years of training and preparation, I’m absolutely devastated … [that] I’ve had to withdraw from Team GB’s shooting team.”
Chilean taekwondo athlete Fernanda Aguirre, Dutch skateboarder Candy Jacobs, Czech table tennis player Pavel Širuček, and American beach volleyball player Taylor Crabb have all been ruled out of the Games after testing positive for the virus. Aguirre and Crabb both had events scheduled for this Sunday. Širuček is the second Czech athlete and third from the country’s beach volleyball delegation to contract Covid-19 since arriving in Japan. Aguirre, a Pan-American bronze medalist, was the first athlete forced to withdraw from the Games because of a positive test. Because Monyane and Mahlatsi were the first to test positive at the Village, they could feasibly still compete once their quarantine finishes.
Since July 1, the number of positive Covid-19 cases in Japan among those connected to the Games has grown to 82. Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto insists organizers have “a plan in place” to respond to any Covid outbreak at Olympic Village. But thousands of athletes are yet to arrive, and Hashimoto admitted earlier this week they are “probably very worried” about coming to Japan. (Guardian, CNN, Inside the Games)
Olympics Will Head Down Under
- No doubt Tokyo 2020 has been a mess, but Brisbane is thrilled to begin imagining 2032. The IOC announced Wednesday that Australia has been chosen to host the Summer Olympic Games for the third time. Brisbane will also be hosting the Paralympic Games. Brisbane’s lord mayor, Adrian Schrinner, said the effort to become a host city began six years ago under his predecessor. Schrinner said hosting the Games will provide an $8.1 billion boost for the Queensland region economy, while the estimated cost to prepare Brisbane for the event is $5 billion.
- That is optimistic thinking indeed. According to a report from the Council on Foreign Relations, the Rio de Janeiro 2016 games left the city struggling with debt and high maintenance costs for abandoned facilities just one year after the event. The 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal had already come to symbolize “the fiscal risks of hosting.” The projected cost of readying that city for the games was $124 million, which turned out to be billions below the actual cost. Montreal’s taxpayers were left with some $1.5 billion in debt that took nearly 30 years to pay off.
- As the report says: “Despite mounting evidence that hosting the games leads to bloated budgets and white elephant infrastructure, the soft-power appeal of the Olympics lives on.” Wednesday’s choice by IOC member nations had actually been an easy one. Brisbane was the only option still in the running to be a host city. (NPR)
Women Standing Guard
- For the first time, Saudi women soldiers will be helping to secure the haj annual pilgrimage to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the birthplaces of Islam. Dozens of female soldiers have become part of the country’s security services since April, as Saudi women have gained some privileges under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. They can now drive a car, travel without permission from guardians, and take more control over family matters.
- At the same time, the Kingdom has cracked down on dissenters, including women’s rights activists. This is the second year the haj will be restricted to Saudi citizens and residents due to the pandemic; millions of other pilgrims from abroad will be barred from the pilgrimage. (Reuters)
Additional World News
- Russia unveils new ‘Checkmate’ fighter jet (CNN)
- France calls Turkish-Cypriot move on ghost town a ‘provocation’ (Reuters)
- U.K. Agrees to Pay France £54 Million to Help Block Migrant Arrivals by Boat (NYT, $)
- UK says it wants to substantially rewrite Northern Ireland Brexit protocol (Guardian)
- Liverpool stripped of Unesco World Heritage status (BBC)
- England to demand vaccination proof for clubs, mass events (Reuters)
- The CDC has released statistical data showing that life expectancy in the U.S. declined by a year and a half in 2020. Covid-19 is largely responsible, contributing to 74% of the decline from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77.3 years in 2020. Increases in deaths from drug overdoses, homicide, diabetes, and chronic liver disease also contributed to the largest one-year decline since WWII.
- A study published last month compared life expectancy in the U.S. with 16 other high-income countries and found the U.S. decrease from 2018 to 2020 was 8.5 times greater than the average decrease in peer countries. The decline was greater among Black and Hispanic communities. For African Americans, the drop was 2.9 years, from 74.7 years in 2019 to 71.8 in 2020. U.S. Hispanics saw the largest decline in life expectancy, dropping three years from 81.8 years in 2019 to 78.8 years in 2020. COVID-19 was 90% responsible for the decline among Hispanics.
- Due to the ongoing risk among the unvaccinated, the White House reached out to Fox News — the media hub for vaccine hesitancy and outright hostility, with the largest audience of Republican voters by far. Regular conversations occurred regarding the network’s coverage of the pandemic and the vaccines. And for whatever reason, influential Fox host Sean Hannity gave a full-throated directive to his viewers Tuesday night to get vaccinated, saying: “Enough people have died. We don’t need any more death….Take [the virus] seriously.” (NPR, CNN)
That’s The Spirit
- The Federal Aviation Administration has received more than 3,400 reports of “unruly” passengers this year. Kudos to the American Airlines gate agent who calmly removed a woman from a flight last weekend and barred her from the carrier after the woman called a flight attendant a vulgar name during a mask dispute.
- A viral video of the incident showed the agent stoically telling the passenger that her vituperativeness was uncalled for and inappropriate. “We don’t tolerate that crap with us at all,” he said. “You can find another carrier to fly. I’d suggest Spirit.” (Dallas News, WaPo)
Additional USA News
- What top pediatricians want you to know about the delta variant and children (NBC)
- ‘A systemic failure’: vaccine misinformation remains rampant on Facebook, experts say (Guardian)
- Tom Barrack, L.A. billionaire and Trump ally, charged with acting as agent of UAE (LAT, $)
- Oregon wildfires creating ‘fire clouds,’ potential for ‘fire tornadoes’ (The Hill)
- Analysis: Kevin McCarthy’s picks for the 1/6 commission reveal his true goals (CNN)
- The towering pile of concrete and debris from the Surfside condo collapse is now nearly an empty pit (CNN)
China may not be offering civilian space travel yet, but they have almost the next best thing: super-high-speed trains. High-speed rail is a major priority in China, which aims to connect more of its large cities by train to reduce the time and expense required to travel around the world’s most populous country.
The latest travel phenomenon just debuted in Qingdao — a major port city in eastern Shandong Province, on China’s Yellow Sea coast. It’s a Maglev bullet train that can reach speeds of 600 kilometers per hour (373 miles per hour).
“Maglev” is an abbreviation of “magnetic levitation,” which makes the train appear to be “floating,” thanks to an electromagnetic force that sends it gliding above the tracks. It was developed by the state-owned China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation and is considered the world’s fastest train.
Currently, the average high-speed train in China can run at about 350 kph (217 mph), while planes fly at 800-900 kph (497-559 mph). A Maglev bullet train like the one just unveiled is meant to fill up that critical middle space. However, it’s a little like getting the cart before the horse, because right now there aren’t enough Maglev track networks. There’s only one Maglev line in commercial use, connecting Shanghai’s Pudong Airport with the Longyang Road Subway Station in Shanghai. With the train hitting speeds of 430 kph (267 mph), the 30 km (19 mile) ride takes just seven and a half minutes. You’ve arrived at your destination before some people can decide where to sit on a bus. (CNN)
- 52-foot-tall ‘megaripples’ from dinosaur-killing asteroid are hiding under Louisiana (LiveScience)
- Hubble releases stunning images of “rarely observed” colliding galaxies after sudden monthlong shutdown (CBS)
- To Battle Climate Change, Begin With Your Air-Conditioner (NYT, $)
- Couple charged in deadly wildfire sparked during gender reveal (NBC)
- Top U.S. Catholic Church official resigns over report linking him to gay bars and Grindr (Axios)
- These Bendy Plastic Chips Fit in Unusual Places (Wired)
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