Archive for the ‘International Olympic Committee’ Category

Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin

At a time when party lines are toed so deeply as to create ideological trenches in the United States, President Barack Obama might have found a unifying force to bring all Americans together: A hatred of Russia. Between remnants of Cold War hysteria and a lack of social progress in the land of a former enemy, Republicans and Democrats, rarely alike, both have reasons to despise the hosts of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

And so, it’s without much consternation from either side of the political spectrum that the White House announced its delegation to the Sochi Olympics wouldn’t include a President, First Lady, Vice President or even an acting cabinet secretary. Instead it will be comprised of two openly gay delegates: tennis legend Billie Jean King at the Opening Ceremonies, and two-time Olympic medalist in ice hockey, Caitlin Cahow, at the Closing Ceremonies.

A statement from the White House coyly suggested that the President believes the delegation “will showcase to the world the best of America – diversity, determination and teamwork.” In case that was too subtle, the statement repeated that this delegation “represents the diversity that is the United States.” The only way the statement could have been more implicative would be if the statement was read by Ellen Degeneres while holding rainbow flags.

Why is the United States going through all this trouble to say something, while not really saying anything?

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unknown-artist-the-wild-wild-east

The German Democratic Republic may have had a relatively small population – 16-million people – and a short history, but it was extremely successful at the Olympic Games. From 1976 to 1988, the country came second in three summer Olympics, only behind the Soviet Union. They also finished second at four Winter Olympics, and won more medals than any other nation at the 1984 winter games in Sarajevo.

It was just before 7:00 AM on an autumn morning in 1978 when 18-year-old Renate Neufeld was awakened by the Secret Police. Her dormitory, which was off-limits even to her parents when they visited, was invaded by Stasi officers, who – in their mechanical compliance to indiscernible demands – took the young sprinter away for questioning.

As a relative newcomer to the TSC Berlin Sports Club, Neufeld was unique. Like her classmates, she grew up in East Germany, but unlike the rest of the sequestered school, her daily routine through adolescence hadn’t been meted out by the Socialist Unity Party. Most of the students there were hand-selected at the age of twelve to become future representatives of East Germany at the Olympic Games. Since being chosen, they trained constantly to reach this goal. From physical exercises to nutrition, regimen and unconditional obedience was a way of life.

Neufeld, a champion hurdler in her teens, didn’t join the school until after she turned 17-years-old. Immediately, her trainer set her up on a sophisticated program that would make up for lost time and reap increased ability from her surprising and untamed talent. Included in this plan was a supplemental diet of grey pills and green powder that he referred to as vitamins. Once she began consuming these “vitamins,” her legs suffered frequent cramps, her voice deepened, facial hair grew on the top of her lip and she ceased menstruating.

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Greek civilization, Plinth of kouros statue, bas-relief depicting wrestlers, circa 510 B.C., detail, from Kerameikos necropolis in Athens, GreeceTo truly understand the lunacy behind the International Olympic Committee’s recently announced decision to drop wrestling from the Olympic program for the 2020 Games, one need only learn of the events that comprise the modern pentathlon, a sport that was deemed more worthy of continuance.

  • Pistol shooting;
  • Fencing;
  • 200 metre freestyle swimming;
  • Show jumping; and
  • Three kilometre cross-country run.

The competition is referred to as the modern pentathlon as a means of differentiating itself from the original pentathlon of the ancient Olympic Games. The events of the unlikely forefather were much different than those contested as part of today’s pentathlon.

  • 180 metre dash;
  • Long jump;
  • Javelin;
  • Discus; and
  • Wrestling.

Yes, wrestling, in a certain sense, helped beget a bastardized competition that is now an Olympic sport while it is not. However, the IOC wasn’t attempting to make a literary reference with this almost appropriately Oedipal turn of events.

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