Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Sports | Zooming In

August 6, 2012

Zooming In: Olympics Day Eleven

Bringing you the top Olympic stories that aren't covered in the USA! USA! USA!

Justin Adler

Zooming In London Olympics 2012

If hyperlocal was the journalism trend of 2011, then hyperinternational is today's hotness. (It's also possible we just made it up.) That's why Gelf Magazine and Deadspin have decided to showcase the best—or at least the most interesting—foreign-produced journalism with our new feature—Zooming In: The Olympic Edition.

Throughout the Games, we’ll comb through hundreds of international news publications to bring you stories and local perspectives that can’t be found stateside. Each day, we'll give you our top five finds, giving you the chance to be as globally cultured as foreign-government-controlled papers permit.

As we dive into week two of the Games, we look into the rampant sex (or lack there of) at the Olympic Village, Saudi sexist tweets and a Canadian horse's "hypersensitivity."

Reports of Olympic Village as Giant Orgy Greatly Exaggerated | England

The UK’s Daily Mail, as is their wont, contributes front line reporting over the weekend on the after dark comings and goings (and comings!) of libertine Olympians.

The intrepid Tom Wolfes at the Mail would have you believe the Olympic Village has devolved into a orgiastic wade pool of unrestrained carnality—all those lithe bodies in form-fitting one-pieces gone berserk with lust, tweeting pictures of themselves dressed only in Olympic-branded bathrobes or as Olympic-branded firemen—burning through “a record 150,000 condoms (50,000 more than at the last Olympics)…15 each for the duration of the 17-day Games…[or] enough to keep [South Pacific island nation] Tuvalu’s entire population going for a year or more.”

But really, as truly is its wont, The Mail overpromises in order to grab more readers. As the maxim goes, the less sexy truth will out, and the paper relents that the hottest it gets is an American-founded book club, currently enjoying Nicole Krauss’ The History Of Love.

“We just train, sleep and relax,” said Namibian wrestler Sem Shilimela, as quoted by The Mail. “I play around on my laptop but rarely go down to the bar. I mainly stay in my room.”

Scandal!

A Walk-Off Loss: Runner Ditches Race, Gets Thrown Out Of Games | Algeria

Yet another Olympian has received a harsh penalty for failing to give his all in an event. Algerian runner Taoufik Makhloufi has been barred by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) after he refused to finish his heat for the 800m event. Makhoulfi was not up to anything nefarious though. He simply didn't want to run in the race because he wasn't supposed to be entered in it to begin with.

According to SportLive.com, Makhoulfi's team forgot to withdraw him from the 800m race by the appropriate deadline, meaning that he had to participate in the qualifying heats anyway. Makhoufli lined up in the starting blocks, ran to the back straight of the track, and then simply stopped running and walked into the track's infield. The IAAF saw this refusal to compete as grounds for excluding Makhoulfi from the rest of the Olympic games.

This is very bad news for Makhoulfi, who won the 1500m semifinal by defeating world champion Asbel Kiprop. As it currently stands, Makhoulfi's punishment would prevent him from competing in the 1500m final, a race in which he would no doubt be a serious threat to win gold.

However Makhoulfi could be reinstated in time for Tuesday's 1500m final if he can get a medical certificate from a local doctor, which, you know, doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense.

Father of the First Saudi Woman to Compete in the Games is Suing Twitter Trash-Talkers | Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s first-ever female Olympian, judokan Wojdan Shaherkani, lasted just 82 seconds before she was eliminated from the Games by Puerto Rico's Melissa Mojica. Her presence at the Games was nonetheless a monumental milestone for women's rights in Saudi Arabia, and in London, she left the mat to a standing ovation.

She wasn’t received quite as well on Twitter and now her father is going to do something about the racist, sexist and otherwise insulting messages about his daughter.

The Saudi Gazette reports that Shaherkani's father plans to sue all those who defamed his daughter on Twitter in advance of or after her fight. (The paper actually says he "vowed to" sue them, but he retained a lawyer, so it seems likely that this vow was more than just shaking his fist at the heavens.) "I have sent an urgent letter to the Minister of Interior Prince Ahmed Bin Abdul Aziz with copies of all attacks made on Twitter," Ali Seraj Shaherkani told the paper.

It may seem odd for Americans that one could effectively argue that Twitter users using defamatory language against a public figure are guilty of a crime—after all, Allison Schmitt probably couldn't win a case against the legions of tweeters who think she's "retarted"—but as we've seen in Great Britain and during Euro 2012 this summer, there is precedent for prosecuting those who transmit racist or threatening messages about athletes over social media. In Wales, a student spent 56 days in jail for tweeting racist (and generally insensitive comments) about Fabrice Muamba, and this article from the Guardian has a good rundown of court cases stemming from abusive tweets.

This Olympiad has already heralded a first for Saudi Arabia. It will be an interesting referendum on the country’s social progress to see how its justice system handles this tricky free speech issue.

Note: We searched Twitter and the tweeters seemed to be united in support of Shahrkani, but perhaps if we could read Arabic, we’d see otherwise.

Show Jumper Upset Over Horseshit Decision | Canada

Canada's equestrian team suffered an unexpected setback 20 minutes before the start of yesterday's team jumping preliminaries when Victor, the horse of show jumper Tiffany Foster, was banned for "hypersensitivy" in his front left hoof, according to the Globe and Mail.

The team protested, offering to take Victor out of stall to walk around and prove his fitness, yet the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) refused, saying their decision was final, and could not be appealed. "It's insane," Canadian rider Eric Lamaze said. "It's a joke."

This left team Canada with three riders, while the other teams had four and were able to drop their lowest score. The last time Canada was forced to use three horses, at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, they took home the silver medal. This time around, despite the disqualification minutes before competition, they were able to advance to Monday's final in sixth place.

Canada's main gripe is with how the examination of Victor was performed. Foster insists wouldn't do anything to jeopardize her mount's well-being. According to the Calgary Herald, Victor's "injury" was discovered with a thermological exam—a highly sensitive infrared imaging procedure.

Rider Torchy Millar called for the FEI to reconsider the way it makes such important decisions: "This is like getting a scratch on your finger and the referee saying you're unfit for competition. Every rule needs to be applied with a sense of balance, perspective and common sense. To me, and compatriots from other teams, this seems to lack any balance at all."

Removal Of Taiwanese Flag Hurts "Taiwanese Feelings" | Taiwan

The country of Taiwan, despite being independent from mainland China for the last 63 years, still has to make concessions so as not to anger its powerful enemy. For example, at the Olympics it competes as Chinese Taipei (instead of its formal name Republic of China) and flies a very different flag made especially for the Games.

In an attempt to further mollify the Chinese, the Taiwanese Sports Affairs Council and Tourism Council sent out "friendly reminders" to London-bound travelers to leave their official Republic of China flags at home.

The travelers themselves were unimpressed: "I guess this is what people would call 'self-castration'," Alain Chen told the Taipei Times.

But Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou seems to finally be tiring of all the concessions. After a Chinese complaint led the Taiwanese national flag to be removed from a row hanging over London's Regent Street, Ma denounced the move as "unwise," adding, "the removal of the national flag has…hurt the feelings of Taiwan's people."

Kate Bennert, Isaac Rauch, Dan Gartland, Max Lakin and Tom Ley contributed to this article.

Justin Adler

Justin Adler is a graduate of the University of Arizona. He blogs here.







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Article by Justin Adler

Justin Adler is a graduate of the University of Arizona. He blogs here.

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