Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Sports | Zooming In

August 2, 2012

Zooming In: Olympics Day Seven

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.

Today we look at Qatar's most interesting man, Haitians connected to Zuckerberg and dirty Germans.

Haitian Olympians: Not That Haitian, but Well Connected | Haiti

Of Haiti's five Olympians, only judoka Linouse Desravine is from Haiti. The others were born Stateside and use their parents’ Haitian roots to compete for the Caribbean country, according to the Caribbean News Review.

Haiti's lack of homegrown talent is largely due to the country's impoverished economy—millions of Haitians live on $2 a day or less. There's also the woeful state of many athletic facilities; according to the article, "three of the country's five competitive running tracks are home to thousands of people in tents and shanties who were displaced by the January 2010 earthquake."

Hence the need for foreign-born talent. Of the four competing Haitian-Americans, none are better connected than triple jumper Samyr Laine, who shared a room with Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard and was the 14th person to sign up for Facebook. After the Games, Laine—also a Georgetown Law School graduate—hopes to form a non-profit designed to get more native Haitians involved in the Olympics. He added that he won't hesitate to call up an old friend for donations.

Rally-Racing Skeet-Shooter Wins Free SMS Messages For All | Qatar

Qataris can send SMS messages to anyone in the world today, for free. The least they could do is text a "thx" to skeet shooter and certified badass Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah.

AME Info reports that Qatar’s cell service provider Qtel was so elated with Al-Attiyah’s bronze-medal victory that they’re giving the whole country free domestic and international SMS to spread the good news. Al-Attiyah himself scored a line "with unlimited SMS, mobile Internet, local and international calling for life."

In addition to being one of the world's best marksmen, Al-Attiyah is also a top roff-road racer; last year, he won the grueling Dakar Rally. In fact, the only reason he was able to make it to the Games is because his Hummer broke down early in race across South America. This allowed him to rush back to to Qatar to compete in an Olympic qualifier where despite harsh desert winds he finished "without missing a shot (75-75) in the qualifying round [and] he shot down all the 150-clay pigeon targets in the final to meet the world record to cement his place for the London Games."

How to Play Dirty and Avoid Doping Allegations | Germany

Despite pre-game predictions from German scientists that the country would win 54 medals (15 gold, 19 silver and 20 bronze, to be specific), Germany got off to a slow start in these Olympic games—not winning their first medal until Britta Heidemann's controversial fencing victory.

Some in the country have been so disappointed that they've turned their attention to the ninth annual Wattolümpiade—the "Mudflats Olympics" staged in the intertidal zone at the mouth of the Elbe River, near the North Sea.

There, 300 athletes on 34 teams compete in sports ranging from mud soccer to mud volleyball to mud relay races featuring a fake eel in place of a baton. (Curiously, there's no mud wrestling.) The games, which feature a slogan "dirty sport for a good cause," have raised more than €150,000 for a counseling service for German cancer patients.

Germany has since bounced back from its slow start in the Olympics, winning gold in rowing and equestrian and a slew of silvers. And if mud-sledding is ever added to the Games, look for Germany to maintain a decisive edge.

Famous Olympian Left Behind 11 Children, and They are Broke | Uganda

Ugandan Hurdler John Akii-bua won a gold medal in the 400 meter hurdles at the 1972 Games, and ever since he has been Uganda's most treasured Olympian. He left behind 11 children when he died in 1997 and at least one of them is starting to feel rather abandoned by her home country.

Akii-bua's daughter, Maureen Akii-bua recently spoke to Radio Netherlands Worldwide about the hardships that she and her siblings have had to face. Akii-bua feels that the Ugandan government hasn't taken care of her family as they should have given that her father is a national hero.

Akii-bua claims that she and several of her siblings were forced to drop out of school because they could no longer afford it. "We have never enjoyed life as people would expect of a hero's family," Ms. Akii-bua said. "As far as I can remember, life for us has been a living hell—right from the time when Dad was alive. But it only worsened in 1997 when he passed on and left the eleven of us to fend on our own."

It’s hard to imagine exactly what the Ugandan government should have done for Akii-bua's children, as the country has no official policy regarding the rewarding of Olympic athletes. Maureen Akii-bua was given 700,000 Ugandan shillings ($281 USD) by the president of the Ugandan Olympic committee, which she used to invest in a fashion business.

Chinese Paper Says Failure Is Now An Option | China

China used to ridicule and shame athletes who fell short of gold medal opportunities, but according to the Global Times, that attitude is changing as China grows up.

In the past, Chinese athletes who failed to medal have notoriously been met with criticism and disdain upon their return home. Ai Dongmei, a 27-year-old former marathoner, found herself reduced to selling popcorn after failing on the world stage.

The Global Times claims this attitude toward Olympic athletes is changing. “Chinese society is maturing. Competing for success is encouraged. Failure is also met with more sympathy and acceptance. Athletes are showing more of their own personalities whether they win their matches or not,” the article states.

But don't let that fool you into thinking that China is assimilating into Western culture: “China still has many facets that are different from the West. These differences, however, will not block its further integration into the world. The world is not Western-dominated, and integration doesn't mean being assimilated.”

The entire article sounds perfectly reasonable, in fact, until you get to this part about the Chinese way: “Differences sometimes led to clashes, but throughout history, differences have generally been accepted and tolerated.”

You don’t need to be Tibetan to realize that’s a pretty generous use of the word "generally".

Kate Bennert, Isaac Rauch, Dan Gartland, Michael Gluckstadt 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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