The real water scandal in Rio

(K. Brent Tomer),

LONG before the opening ceremony at the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, water conditions at the games had drawn close scrutiny. Guanabara Bay, where the sailing competition was held, is clogged with sewage, industrial waste and rubbish, and alarm bells about athletes’ safety began to ring once 13 American rowers fell ill after competing there last year. Once the games were underway, it was the indoor aquatic events that began to draw unwelcome attention. The water in a pair of swimming pools turned as green as a wine bottle during the games’ second week, after 160 litres of hydrogen peroxide were dumped into them without Olympic organisers’ knowledge. And divers began complaining about an unpredictable wind that had a habit of bursting into the open-air aquatics centre without warning. “You…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC The real water scandal in Rio

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Is hactivism art?

(K. Brent Tomer),

WHEN Donald Trump stated that he wanted to stop Muslims from entering America, Anonymous, a cybergroup, responded by hacking his website. They disabled the Trump Towers site, and posted a video on YouTube asking Mr Trump to think before he speaks. In June, they hacked 250 Facebook and Twitter accounts associated with Islamic State (IS), replacing jihadist messages and images with LGBT rainbow flags and pro-gay slogans. “Hello World. It’s time I share with you a little secret…I’m Gay and I’m Proud!!” read one. “#GayPride.”

Anonymous, whose trademark has become the Guy Fawkes mask, said the hack was a way to pay homage to the 49 people who died in the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting. The initiator of the hack, who goes by the pseudonym WauchulaGhost, said that he received messages of support as well as death threats from extremists. Some sent him photographs of beheaded corpses with the message “You’re next”. The social justice warriors have attracted attention across the globe after helping Arab Spring activists during the 2011 internet blackout in Egypt with their Speak2Tweet campaign, and attacking credit card…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Is hactivism art?

Does the menstrual cycle affect athletic performance?

(K. Brent Tomer),

AS THE reporter for CCTV, China’s state broadcaster, approached Fu Yuanhui, the swimmer was crouching on the poolside floor. Helped up by one of her teammates, Ms Fu, a bronze medalist in the 100m backstroke in Rio, apologised for struggling on her leg of the 4x100m medley relay on August 13th, in which China missed out on third place by just 0.17 seconds. Visibly in pain, Ms Fu explained that her period had begun the night before and that she was “fatigued, very tired”. Her split over 100m in the relay was 59.53 seconds, putting China in seventh place heading into the second leg of the race. Had Ms Fu repeated her medal-winning time of 58.76 seconds in the individual event, set on August 8th, China would have been in second place at the end of her portion of the race—and would have beaten Australia to the silver medal.

That Ms Fu’s performance in the 100m backstroke had worsened by 0.77 seconds in the space of five days—the difference between first and last place in the individual event was 0.78 seconds—escaped most onlookers. Many reporters focused instead on the stir her…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Does the menstrual cycle affect athletic performance?

Art’s equivocal relationship with the natural world

(K. Brent Tomer),

POETS and artists have always been awed by nature. The author of “The Wanderer”, an Old English poem, both admired and feared the power of the sea and storms. In the 20th century, Mary Hunter Austin wrote that she was “not homesick with the sky, nor with the hills, though sometimes I am afraid of them.” Edmund Burke, in his “Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful” (1757), had stated that the majesty of the natural world always provokes such an ambiguous response, a sense of ineffability and a mingling of pleasure and pain. “The passion caused by the great and sublime in nature…is astonishment,” he says. “And astonishment is that state of the soul, in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror.”

Though Burke was not the first to articulate this idea (Jonathan Richardson, a painter and theorist, sought to identify the sublime in art some 20 years earlier), his manifesto was the most influential, particularly for the Romantics and Transcendentalists. Percy Bysshe Shelley, in “Mont Blanc” (1817), wrote: “Dizzy Ravine! And when I gaze on thee | I seem as…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Art’s equivocal relationship with the natural world

Who will out-bolt Bolt?

(K. Brent Tomer),

NOW that Usain Bolt (pictured) has won both the 100- and 200-metre men’s races in three consecutive Olympics, his perch atop the all-time ranking of male sprinters looks unassailable. But reports of Mr Bolt’s powers go beyond his own prowess on the track. In 2012 Steve Haake, a professor at Sheffield Hallam University, claimed that Mr Bolt was responsible not only for his own performances but also for a 1% improvement in his competitors’ running times, as they either became more motivated to catch up to him or began copying his technique.

Although Mr Bolt’s 2016 gold medals may glitter just as much as his hardware from 2012 and 2008, his times were far more modest: he took 9.81 seconds to reach the finish line in the 100 and 19.78 seconds in the 200. Both marks were around the 50th-best marks ever, and a far cry from his world records of 9.58 and 19.19. On one hand, such a slowdown was to be expected: Mr Bolt turned 30 the day before the closing ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, and sprinters tend to peak…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Who will out-bolt Bolt?

Raising a glass to Britain’s Indian pubs

(K. Brent Tomer),

IN THE 1960s, the Ivy Bush public house in Smethwick, West Midlands enforced a colour bar. An ad hoc system, it barred Asian and Caribbean men—most of whom had migrated to the town to work in its flourishing foundries—from the premises. Today, the Ivy Bush is owned and run by Lakhbir Singh Gill, who took over the pub 23 years ago, and it is one of many “Desi” pubs in the region (“Desi” is a vernacular term meaning “of South Asia”).

This largely unknown phenomenon is being celebrated in Creative Black Country’s Desi Pubs project, which is producing a documentary, gathering testimonies and creating a photo archive. Many of these testimonies will be the experiences of working class Indians—particularly Sikh and Punjabi Indians—who have established communities in the West Midlands over the course of 50 years. “We wanted to capture the stories of migration, brotherhood and community that have taken place in and around Desi pubs,” says Parminder Dosanjh, director of the campaign. “Today they’re thriving, cosmopolitan pubs when 25 years ago some were National…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Raising a glass to Britain’s Indian pubs

Why squash is not an Olympic sport

(K. Brent Tomer),

TWENTY-EIGHT sports have been contested in the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. Yet though that number makes it impossible to keep track of all 306 events, it is still not enough to include all disciplines that would like to feature. Despite much vigorous campaigning by the World Squash Federation (WSF), a bid to add the game to the Rio schedule was rejected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2009. Last year, the WSF learned that the sport would be excluded from the 2020 Games, in Tokyo, too—even though climbing, surfing and skateboarding were admitted. It was the third consecutive time that squash’s bid to join the games had been turned down. 

The WSF has made clear its desperation to join the Olympic programme. So have leading squash players: Nicol David, the eight-time women’s world champion, has repeatedly said that she would swap all her world titles for an Olympic gold medal. This only makes golf’s striking ambivalence about the merits of joining the games all the more infuriating. The IOC “should be held accountable…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Why squash is not an Olympic sport

Why men’s relay performances have lagged behind individual ones

(K. Brent Tomer),

FOUR years ago, as Usain Bolt charged across the finishing line of the 4×100 metres race in London’s Olympic Stadium, spectators must have believed that they were enjoying a golden era for men’s relay teams. The Jamaican quartet in 2012 clocked a world-record time of 36.84 seconds, shaving more than a quarter of a second off their previous Olympic record of 37.10, set in Beijing in 2008. Mr Bolt’s split for the final 100 metres of the race was 8.70 seconds, a hair slower than the 8.68 anchor leg that Asafa Powell had run four years before—but still frighteningly fast.

Mr Bolt, Mr Powell and the lightning quick Yohan Blake are members of the Jamaican men’s squad in Rio. It would take a brave man to bet against them in the 4×100 metres final on August 19th. Odds on Betfair’s betting exchange suggest that the Jamaicans have about a 75% chance of retaining their title, which would give Mr Bolt an unprecedented “triple triple”: gold medals in the 100m,…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Why men's relay performances have lagged behind individual ones

25 years of Oasis, the best British band of their generation

(K. Brent Tomer),

TWENTY FIVE years ago, on August 18th 1991, four Mancunian lads plugged in their instruments at the Boardwalk nightclub, and strummed away to an audience of barely a dozen people. It was not an auspicious start for The Rain, a band of layabouts in their 20s who couldn’t even afford a microphone stand. If, as the group trundled off the stage at the end of the set, you had told one of the listeners that they had just witnessed the debut of the best British band of their generation, you might have elicited a chuckle—and a couple of expletives. 

Holding the microphone that night was a young Liam Gallagher; among the onlookers was his older brother, Noel. Neither of them had done much with their lives. The sons of two Irish immigrants, the Gallagher boys had a rough upbringing, suffering at the hands of an abusive, alcoholic father, who beat them and their mother. Both struggled at school and developed a taste for truancy, shoplifting and smoking marijuana. They drifted in and out of construction jobs and frequently found themselves on the dole. Noel eventually landed a job as a roadie for Inspiral Carpets, an indie band from Oldham….Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC 25 years of Oasis, the best British band of their generation

Boxing’s rule changes have not paid off in Rio

(K. Brent Tomer),

MICHAEL CONLAN, an Irish bantamweight boxer, was understandably displeased by his loss to Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin in an Olympic quarter-final on August 16th. Mr Conlan (pictured, in red), the current world champion and a bronze medallist at London 2012, had landed more punches than Mr Nikitin (in blue) and dominated two of the bout’s three rounds. Yet all three judges awarded victory to the blood-soaked Russian. Steve Bunce, who often commentates on boxing for the BBC, described the decision as “disgraceful”

Mr Conlan called the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA), the sport’s governing body, “cheats” live on Irish television, adding expletives for good measure. Mr Nikitin’s face was left so badly injured that he cannot compete in the next round. His scheduled opponent, America’s Shakur Stevenson, has been awarded a walkover to the final (and a guaranteed silver medal). 

The heavyweight final a…Continue reading

via K. Brent Tomer CFTC Boxing’s rule changes have not paid off in Rio