The candidate team that submitted Rio’s bid for the 2016 Olympics were praised for their emphasis on sustainability – how they would revitalize their down-and-out urban areas, clean up their polluted waters, and build needed public transportation systems. They even promised to use recycled metals to build the gold, silver and bronze Olympic and Paralympic medals.
Unfortunately, many of those promises to make 2016 the Sustainability Olympics have not been kept. And as for the medals from the Rio Olympics, well, they are proving to be not so sustainable.
As I wrote in an August 2016 post, the medals were formed with mercury-free gold, and recycled silver and bronze. Even the ribbons were produced from recycled plastic bottles. According to this article, the medal manufacturer employed 80 people to handcraft the medals, who spent 48 hours making each one.
Unfortunately, recipients of the medals have begun to understand that all that gold does not glitter. You can see American wrestler Kevin Snyder‘s gold medal in the picture, which has a commonly reported issue – flaking and discoloring of the medal’s varnish. Apparently when a medal is dropped or rubbed up against other objects, the surface has been known to flake, particularly the silver medals. It has also been reported that the cover of medals have fallen off, but I am yet to see photographic evidence of that.
A spokesman for Rio2016 has explained that, perhaps, the medals were built for Brazilian heat. “We’re seeing problems with the covering on between six or seven percent of the medals, and it seems to be to do with the difference in temperatures,” Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada said, according to this NBC Sports report.
The good thing is that the medal factory is back in business as the Rio2016 organizers are promising to replace the medals. But American Kerri Walsh-Jennings, who won bronze in beach volleyball to complement her three golds from previous Olympics, has grown attached to her flaking bronze medal.
Since the time he left Rio de Janeiro, with a silver medal in the marathon from the Summer Olympic Games, Feyisa Lilesa has not been able to enjoy the triumphant return home to an adoring populace like most other Olympian medalists.
Instead, he lives a life a self-exile.
When he crossed the line to finish his marathon achievement in Rio, he crossed another line by extending his arms and crossing them in the shape of an X, with fists clenched. It was a clear sign to his country men and women in Ethiopia that Lilesa was outraged with his government, his arms raised in protest against his country’s leaders for the treatment of the country’s largest ethnic group which he belongs to – the Oromo. According to reports, hundreds of Oromo have been killed by Ethiopian troops, and thousands of others have been injured, arrested or disappeared, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.
While the Ethiopian government has said Lilesa would be welcome back with arms wide open, he does not believe that. And in his new home in the arid desert of Arizona in the United States, in his lonely jogs, he is constantly reminded that a government agent of Ethiopia might be lurking to do him harm.
“There is nothing I could do to stop it if someone wanted to do something to me out there,” he says through an interpreter in a May 1 Sports Illustrated article. “I am alone, just like I am alone in this country. All I can do is stay strong and keep going.”
The time I first wrote about Lilesa in December, 2016, he truly was all alone, as he left his family behind when he defected to the United States. And according to the Sports Illustrated article, a remarkable interview, his wife, Iftu, let him know what a painful decision he had made when he first talked with her on the phone.
When Iftu called, he could not pick up the phone. He didn’t know what to say. It took him two days to call her back. There was fear and anger in her voice. “Why didn’t you tell us what you were doing?” she demanded. “You gave us this good life, and now our lives aren’t as good. What plan did you have? You’ve risked everything. Why did you make this decision?” She knew her husband had been pained for years. She knew that he felt stifled, that he’d kept quiet for fear of reprisal. She knew he had visited imprisoned protesters and had given clothing and training shoes to needy Oromo. Deep inside, she knew the answers to her questions.
She knew what is in his heart. And according to this fascinating article, Lilesa was thinking that he could make a difference if he was able to get a medal in Rio. This act of defiance was not a spontaneous act of a tired athlete who had just run hard for over two hours. It was premeditated.
Preparing for Rio, Lilesa felt desperate to call attention to a crisis largely ignored by the international community. He needed a medal. Only gold, silver and bronze finishers would get significant media coverage. He had won big races in Europe, the United States and Asia, including the Tokyo Marathon at the start of 2016. But he wasn’t a heavy favorite in Rio. His time in Tokyo had been 2:06:56, only the 31st-fastest marathon of the year. Rio would be the race of his life — a race for his people. He kept his plan a secret, even from his wife and children. If he’d told them, he would have been swallowed by emotion. If he had felt Iftu’s sorrow, he might have lost his nerve.
But he did not lose his nerve. And when given other opportunities – the Honolulu Marathon in December, 2016, or the London Marathon in April, 2017, Lilesa will cross his arms to show he is still thinking of his family members and friends who have suffered and perished. But now, he no longer is running this political marathon alone. On Valentine’s Day of 2016, Lilesa was re-united with his wife and children.
On Feb. 14 — six months after Feyisa said goodbye to them in Africa — his children leap into his arms in the Miami International Airport. Soko, a girl sharp and willful, seems beyond her years. Sora stands close. Near the baggage claim in the bright airport, they laugh and tease, and Feyisa picks them up and cuddles them. Moments later, he holds Iftu in a tight embrace. Tears stream from her brown eyes. With both hands, he wipes them away. Tears well in his own eyes, but he does his best to stand straight and keep them from falling.
Lelisa feels that tears will demonstrate weakness, for he does not want the government to believe that he is succumbing to the pressure.
Lelisa is not weak. He is stronger. But he is not happy.
“It is much better now, with my wife and children,” Lilesa says. “But if you put this on a scale of 1 to 100, I am only at 15 percent happiness. I am in exile, not for myself first and foremost but for my people. And my people are suffering. Going through hell. The situation has gotten worse. I have told you that right now I do not want to cry. The day I will cry is when my people win justice and freedom. That day, I cry nonstop, out of joy.”
The Posto da Torre is a busy gas station in Brazil’s government seat of Brasilia. Before 2013, Posto da Torre (Tower Gas Station) was just one of many of gas stations in the capitol. After 2013, Posto da Torre became the symbol of corruption in Brazil.
One of the more well-known names caught up in web of Operation Car Wash is former mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, whose name has appeared on lists of people receiving payments from construction companies, presumably related to the development projects for the 2016 Rio Olympics. According to this post from Inside the Games, Paes is alleged to have received over USD5 million from from engineering giant Odebrecht.
Paes, who ended his role as mayor at the end of 2016, has denied wrongdoing, calling allegations “absurd”.
Former Brazil President, Henrique Cardoso is also under investigation for taking bribes from Odebrecht, has spoken recently about Operation Car Wash and its significance. “Car Wash has played a very important role in Brazil because it lifted the lid, which was necessary. But that will not resolve things immediately. It is a process,” he said in this Reuters article. “How do you change a culture? With time and by setting a good example – there is no other way.”
An interesting aside: there is no car wash in Posto da Torre. As The New York Times cheekily point out, the closest this Brasilia gas stop has to a car wash is a laundromat. At any rate, it is money that gets washed, not cars. When politicians will come clean is anyone’s guess.
Pita Nikolas Taufatofua put Tonga on the map during the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Carrying his nation’s flag, his torso bare, muscles rippling and golden skin gleaming, Taufatofua had tongues hanging and wagging.
But Taufatofua didn’t last the entire bout of even his first match, eliminated from the Olympics due to mercy rules, losing 16-1 to Sajjad Mardani. To be fair, Tonga is so small, the Pacific archipelago’s population is a bit above 100,000, which is probably about the population of my neighborhood in Tokyo. So the numbers alone make it unlikely for a world champion to emerge from Tonga.
But the tiny kingdom of Tonga, participating in the Olympics since 1984, beat the odds and claimed a silver medal in 1996. Paea Wolfgramm was a student at the university of Auckland in New Zealand where he played rugby when a schoolmate suggested that Wolfgramm give boxing a try in 1990. After 24 bouts in and around the Pacific islands circuit, Wolfgramm found himself the super heavyweight representative of Tonga, and was going to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Wolfgramm was a big man, 185 cm tall and 140 kgs in weight, but as he had no international track record, he was a total unknown among the American, Cuban and European boxers expected to medal.
First up for Wolfgramm was a boxer from Belarus, Sergei Dahovich, whom Wolfgramm snuck by on points, 10-9. This set up a match with the Cuban, Alexis Rubalcaba. The Cuban boxers were always considered a threat. But Wolfgramm, a devout Morman, surprised essentially everyone, taking the fight to Rubalcaba, pummeling him at the ropes, and sending the Cuban to two standing eight counts. Wolfgramm won on points 17-12, and in that moment, to the chants of “Ton-ga! Ton-ga!” from the Atlanta crowd, went from unknown to unbelievable.
The entire island nation of Tonga was already celebrating its greatest Olympic moment as Wolfgramm had secured the nation’s first medal, guaranteed a bronze medal with the Cuban’s defeat. While the match between Wolfgramm and the Nigerian boxer Duncan Dokiwari was not televised in Tonga, the entire populace was on pins and needles when Wolfgramm took to the ring for semi-final bout.
The fight between Wolfgramm and the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games champion was a tight affair, tied 6-6 going into the third and final round. And the match stayed tied at 6 until the very final seconds, when Wolfgramm landed a punch to Dokiwari’s face to get the decisive point. Wolfgramm was going to the gold-medal round!
But there was a cost. Not only did Wolfgramm have a broken nose, he had broken his wrist in his desperate match against Dokiwari. And he was up against Vladimir Klitschko. The brainy PhD from the Ukraine, Klitschko would also go on to become a world heavyweight champion, in fact, the second longest reigning heavyweight champion of all time. (Joe Louis reigned for nearly 12 years, while Klitschko was champion for nearly 10.)
Wolfgramm had said that if this had not been a championship bout, he probably would have not gotten into the ring. But this was for gold, and he was reported to have said, “If I won a gold medal, I could not even imagine. I would die first, coach would die next and the king would give me half of Tonga.”
The Tongan did not win, although he made the fight a fight. After the second round, Wolfgramm was down only 3-2. But the third round was the Ukrainian’s. Klitschko pummelled away, and won the gold-medal match 7-3. Despite the lack of resources and support, the broken nose and wrist, Wolfgramm battled for himself and for an entire nation. Of his wrist, Wolfgramm was quoted as saying, “I was willing for it to break into 2,000 pieces if necessary.
Wolfgramm would turn professional soon after the Atlanta Games, and go onto a successful career, winning his first 14 bouts, and retiring with a career record of 20-4.
It was only 13 months ago when the World Health Organization declared zika a global health emergency, particularly in Latin America. With babies born with deformed heads, men and women alike were worried about going to Brazil for the Rio Olympics last August.
In 1964, a disease that struck fear in populations throughout the world was cholera. From 1961 into the 1979s, the world was facing the seventh known outbreak of a cholera strain called El Tor. While El Tor was rarely fatal, its symptoms of severe watery diarrhea over days were enough to cause considerable fear. El Tor emerged from Indonesia, to such countries as Bangladesh, India, the USSR, Italy, North Africa and the South Pacific.
On Tuesday, October 13, 1964, the third day of the Tokyo Olympics, the newspapers explained that El Tor had made it to Japan. The October 14 Yomiuri reported that Mr. Shoji Endo, a company employee of Dai-ichi Kinzoku Company, a trading company that specialized in importing metal. Apparently, Endo had returned to Japan on Saturday, October 10, after working in Kenya for three months, and then returned to Japan through Calcutta, India and Bangkok, Thailand. Immediately after arriving in Tokyo, he boarded a train to the resort town of Shimoda to join his company colleagues on a company trip. On Tuesday, October 11, Endo fell ill with diarrhea.
Thus commenced a mini-panic. Once they realized that Endo had recently passed through Calcutta and Bangkok, where El Tor cholera had apparently been spreading rapidly, and his diarrhea, officials acted relatively quickly:
People who had been in contact with Endo, colleagues and resort staff, were immediately placed in an isolation ward at a Shimoda hospital.
The Shizuoka Prefecture government set up a cholera precaution headquarters at the resort, and set up facilities to inoculate the 15,000 residents of Shimoda and enforce quarantine measures.
In Tokyo, the Welfare Ministry ordered an extensive anti-cholera campaign, and sent an official to Shimoda to ensure enforcement of the inoculations as well as the disinfection of buildings (where foreigners have stayed) and ditches and the extermination of rats, flies and cockroaches.
The Japanese National Railways, as well the Keisei Electric Railway Company took measures to disinfect stations on Endo’s travel route.
The Izumi-so Inn was effectively closed, cordoned off from the public.
Of course, this was a disaster not only for the Izumi-so Inn, but for the tourism business in Shimoda. As The Yomiuri explained, “the outbreak of cholera was having a serious effect on the town which depends on tourism for its finances. By Tuesday evening, an estimated 1,500 bookings had been canceled and the figure was rising.
The inns are normally packed with 4,000 tourists daily. The town tourist association estimated losses at JPY6,000,000 for Tuesday alone.”
As it turns out, there was no cholera outbreak in Shimoda. Perhaps it was because the officials isolated Endo in time – cholera, officials said, is contagious only after symptoms have appeared, and apparently Endo had shown no symptoms before he left Tokyo for Shimoda. Endo eventually recovered and that was that.
As for the Izumi-so Inn, it is still a thriving resort hotel, which, according to this Booking.com summary, is “a 3-mintue drive from Gero Train Station…offers Japanese-style rooms, an indoor and an open-air natural hot spring bath and Japanese cuisine.” If you’re in Japan and want to enjoy hot springs by the seaside, then look no further. The Izumi-so Inn averages an impressive 8.7 points out of 10 on the site’s review section.
In July, 2015, there were only two cities vying for the 2022 Winter Games: Almaty, Kazakhstan and Beijing, China. Just 10 months before, Oslo, Norway, the host of the 1952 Winter Olympics, pulled out of the running. Sochi a year before famously cost $50 billion, and the Norwegian government was expecting the cost for their city to be billions more than they had an appetite for.
That left Almaty, a city generally unknown, and Beijing, a well-known city that gets very little snow.
With the ugly photos coming out of Rio de Janeiro of the crumbling Olympic infrastructure after only some 7 months, more and more city denizens and governments are convinced they don’t want an Olympics in their metropolis. In fact, Budapest, Hungary, which submitted a strong bid for the 2024 Summer Games, withdrew its bid a week ago on March 1.
So like the 2022 bid, now there are only two for the 2024 Games.
This must be causing considerable heartburn for leaders of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The bidding process has resulted not in a celebration of city pride with the hopes of bringing the biggest sports tent their way, but in opportunities for large numbers of people to publicly and loudly proclaim their disenchantment, if not diffidence with having the Olympics in their back yard.
Fortunately, the 2024 has two solid prospects: Los Angeles and Paris. As Tim Crow writes in this great article, “And Then There Were Two“,
LA is the most compelling, with its vision of Californian sunshine, West Coast tech innovation and Hollywood storytelling power combining to ‘regenerate the Games’ and ‘refresh the Olympic brand around the world’.
Paris is more traditional, a classic piece of Olympic realpolitik, invoking de Coubertin in a ‘new vision of Olympism in action’ in the grand old city, linked to those time-honoured Olympic bid promises of urban regeneration and increased national sports participation.
So, as Crow extrapolates, if the president of the IOC wants to avoid further embarrassment of the citizens of the Great Cities open scorn, at least for a while, he may encourage his fellow leaders to decide the next two Olympic hosts when the IOC meet in Lima, Peru in September, 2017. As has been gossiped about for the past several months, Crow believes the IOC will select either Paris or LA for 2024, and the other one for 2028. By so doing, that would guarantee great Summer Olympic hosts throughout the 2020s, as well as avoid unwanted anti-Olympic discussion that would most certainly lead up to the 2028 process, that is currently scheduled for 2021.
Crow also speculates that the IOC may award the 2024 Summer Games to Paris, and the 2028 Summer Games to Los Angeles. Here are the three reasons why:
One, because an LA 2028 Games will give President Bach the ideal timing to play the American market for the IOC’s next US broadcast deal beyond NBC’s current contract.
Two, because it will also give Bach significant leverage in his attempts to persuade his six US-based TOP sponsors to extend their current deals, all of which end into 2020, for eight years.
But most of all, because it will buy Bach and the IOC both time and two key partners in its battle to find a new relevance and credibility for a new era and a new generation.
That last one is the tricky one. Can the Olympics be saved for the next generation?
If you’re living in Japan, and you buy smartphones like you buy a fashionable spring jacket, then you’ve got a bunch of phones in your cabinet that are just gathering dust.
Tokyo2020 wants your phone! Starting April, Japan telecommunications conglomerate, NTT Docomo, will set up collection boxes in over 2,400 NTT Docomo stores across Japan. Additionally, the Japan Environmental Sanitation Center, will also set up collection centers to collect old PCs, tablets, wearables, monitors, and other electronic devices that can be mined for metals.
The goal is to collect 8 tons of metal, which will yield 2 tons of gold, silver and bronze, and eventually result in the production of 5,000 medals for winners in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Said Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura of this initiative, “computers and smart phones have become useful tools. However, I think it is wasteful to discard devices every time there is a technological advance and new models appear. Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic medals will be made out of people’s thoughts and appreciation for avoiding waste. I think there is an important message in this for future generations.”
Sustainability will be a key theme of Tokyo2020. And my hope and expectation is that Tokyo2020 will be a shining model of how to present the Olympics, as it was in 1964. Tokyo2020 will stand in stark contrast to past Olympics.
The IOC knows its reputation and perhaps its long-term survival are dependent upon making the Olympics more in line with the host country’s economic plans and means, and more conscious of its obligations to be more socially tolerant and more purposeful in driving sustainability.
Since its inception in 2014, IOC President, Thomas Bach, has driven home the 40 tenets of his vision – The Olympic 2020 Agenda – a list of priorities, principles and actions that will guide the IOC in the coming years. Some of the hopes is to help ensure that host cities do not end up with an overly burdensome budget to hold the Games, to make the bidding process less complicated and less expensive, to ensure non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and to drive greater sustainability.
The IOC has been working closely with Tokyo2020 to bring its operational budget down from USD30 billion, which is four times the budget put forth in the 2013 bid for 2020. The current goal is to get the budget down to under USD20 billion, which is far under Sochi’s USD50 billion spend, Beijing’s USD40 billion spend, and more in line with London’s USD20 billion spend. I believe that Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike is making an honest attempt to drive the budget down, as well as create a legacy of sustainability and inclusiveness in Japan.
If you’re in Japan, you too can help! Look for your old smartphones, and the signs at NTT Docomo. Donate a phone, and ensure that a piece of your property becomes a piece of the winning medal for Olympians in 2020.
I suppose selling tea wasn’t quite doing it for Minoru Ikeda. This enterprising tea dealer from Utsunomiya, Tochigi was indicted during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics for scalping tickets, according to The Japan Times of October 20, 1964.
Ikeda bought the tickets fair and square, 60 through his local Japan Travel Bureau office and through direct mail orders to the Tokyo Olympic Committee. Apparently he pulled in a cool JPY150,000 in profit, re-selling four third -lass track and field tickets for the outrageous price of JPY10,000 each. I actually have a third-class ticket from those Games, and it states the price is JPY1,000. According to the article, Ikeda sold 52 more tickets for another JPY200,000.
Hickey was imprisoned for 11 days in Bangu Prison, and was released, primarily due to the fact that he was a 71-year-old in poor health, and his passport had been taken away. After about 4 months in Brazil, Hickey was allowed to return to Ireland, no longer the head of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI), a position he had resigned soon after his arrest.
Hickey had been the head of the OCI since 1989 and had apparently ruled Irish Olympics with a firm hand. And as an executive board member of the IOC, Hickey received such benefits as a USD900 per diem during Olympic Games. But that apparently wasn’t enough. Since Hickey apparently he collaborated with the organizations that was responsible for the selling of Olympic tickets in Ireland, he and Kevin Mallon (another person arrested in Rio), had access to the most valuable tickets at the Rio Games, the opening and closing ceremonies.
According to The Guardian, police seized over a thousand such tickets, which would could be sold at exorbitant prices. The article claims that Mallon’s company, THG, was looking to pull in a profit of USD10 million. That is definitely an improvement on JPY200,000, even accounting for inflation!
Hickey, who asserts his innocence in the charges, is awaiting the start of court deliberations on his case in Rio. If found guilty he could face prison time.
When the IOC formed a team of refugee athletes to compete at the Rio Olympics, to highlight the plight of stateless people globally, it was an act for which the IOC was rightfully praised. Through its existence, the modern-day Olympics have symbolized and strived to model tolerance and inclusion.
In recent history, countries that have enforced state-sponsored discrimination have been banned from participating in the Olympic Games. South Africa was banned from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics due to its apartheid laws, and was not allowed back until apartheid ended, re-entering the Games at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
Indonesia was suspended from the IOC, prior to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The Asian Games were hosted in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1962, and then-president Sukarno refused entry of athletes from Israel and Taiwan. IOC president Avery Brundage insisted that the Olympics were an opportunity to bring all nations’ athletes together, not split them apart, and so suspended Indonesia from the IOC.
Sukarno responded by creating an alternative sports tournament called The Games of the New Emerging Forces (GANEFO), which of course, did not include athletes from Israel and Taiwan. The IOC then banned any athletes who competed at the GANEFO games from participating at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Unwilling to pull their GANEFO athletes, both Indonesia and North Korea boycotted the Games.
As we have heard recently, President Donald Trump has made entry to America off limits to citizens from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – Muslim countries all. The American government is stating that protecting its borders is vitally important to its security, and inferring that anyone who is a Muslim, particularly from those seven countries, are potential terrorists.
To me, this executive order runs contrary to the spirit of the Olympics. And while this may be a low rung on the totem pole of priorities related to immigration and national security, I wonder if the Los Angeles bid for the 2024 Olympics is at risk. Will President Trump’s ban, and his rhetoric of America first put a damper on IOC members’ enthusiasm for an Olympics in a country where tolerance and inclusion become lesser values?
National flags and anthems can be problematic at times because of the emotion they evoke.
We learned of another example recently.
One of the golfers in the world, Rory McIlroy, decided to forego with the Rio Olympics in August, stating that his concerns over the zika virus were enough to keep him home. McIlroy was not alone in that decision, but it was only recently learned that the mosquito-borne virus was not his chief issue. He stated recently in an interview with the Sunday Independent that the IOC told him that if he decided to attend the Rio Games he would have to decide under which flag he would compete: the flag of Great Britain or of Ireland.
McIlroy is from Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, but not part of Great Britain. I won’t go into the politics of this area, primarily because I don’t understand it well enough to try. But McIlroy felt the decision to participate in the Olympics was a decision to openly declare allegiance to a particular sovereignty, something he felt uncomfortable with.
“Not everyone is driven by nationalism and patriotism,” he told the Independent. “All of a sudden it put me in a position where I had to question who I am. Who am I? Where am I from? Where do my loyalties lie? Who am I going to play for? Who do I not want to piss off the most?” he said.
“I started to resent it and I do. I resent the Olympics Games because of the position it put me in, that’s my feelings towards it, and whether that’s right or wrong, it’s how I feel.”
Justin, if I had been on the podium (listening) to the Irish national anthem as that flag went up, or the British national anthem as that flag went up, I would have felt uncomfortable either way. I don’t know the words to either of them; I don’t feel a connection to either flag; I don’t want it to be about flags; I’ve tried to stay away from that.