RIO DE JANEIRO – Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes … “Ew, what’s that smell?”
At Ipanema beach in January, the organization Meu Rio staged a protest in an attempt to make it known that thousands of gallons of raw sewage are dumped into the ocean off Rio’s coast each day.
“For three months we held protests every weekend to turn an invisible problem into a visible one,” Leona Deckelbaum, the campaign coordinator with Meu Rio, said in a recent interview. Only about 34 percent of Rio’s sewage is treated, and the rest simply washes into the azure waters, giving new meaning to the nautical term poop deck.
Guanabara Bay, the site of several 2016 Olympic sailing events, has 78 times Brazil’s legally allowed limit of fecal pollution, and 195 times the U.S. limit. In addition to human waste, the bay is also a receptacle for trash from ships and the bay’s 15 adjacent communities, as well as toxic runoff from a former landfill. And its not just Guanabara–the ritzy Leblon and Ipanema beach areas are plagued with similar pollution problems. The state environmental agency, INEA, found that Leblon and Ipanema were unfit for swimming for 40 percent of 2011. Botafogo Beach had so much fecal pollution that it did not pass a single INEA test in 2013, according to the BBC.
"In the waters just off Copacabana beach, the measurement of fecal coliform bacteria spiked to 16 times the Brazilian government’s satisfactory level as recently as three weeks ago, bad news for the marathon swimmers and triathletes set to compete there," the AP noted in November.
Olympic teams are getting grossed out and nervous.
Read more. [Image: Felipe Dana/AP]
The village of Bekoji, in the highlands of Ethiopia, has produced long-distance runners who’ve won 16 Olympic medals in 20 years. What explains this remarkable success?
Every Olympics since 1972 has had an official mascot. There’s your standard animal variety (Roni the raccoon in Lake Placid, Misha the bear in Moscow), and then there are outliers—everything from cartoon characters (Håkon and Kristin in Lillehammer) to droplets of steel (Wenlocke and Mandeville in London).
For the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia selected a trio of mascots: the hare, the polar bear, and the snow leopard. The polar bear seems to be the only one with a name (it’s Bely Mishka, by the way), but the leopardis definitely Vladimir Putin’s favorite. It’s a symbol, the Russian president contends, of a modern Russia interested in reviving the species and the country’s natural resources.
Now, being the object of Putin’s affection has its pluses and minuses. The Russian leader, it turns out, has a long and complicated history with wild cats—one explored recently by Bill Donahue in the the Natural Resources Defense Council’s OnEarth Magazine.
The central question in Donahue’s article is whether Russia’s “declared commitment to wildlife conservation … has any basis in reality,” and the snow leopard’s symbolic presence in Sochi offers a perfect lens through which to investigate.
Read more. [Image: Markus Schreiber/AP]
“Redemption” is a word that gets tossed around a lot in figure skating—sports reporters have used it more times in this Olympics than I could even begin to count.
But in the end, figure skating at the 2014 Winter Olympics really was about redemption. This year’s event was full of occasions when no other word would do.
Read more. [Image: Vadim Ghirda/AP]
Christin Cooper’s emotional dialogue with the Olympic skier offended some viewers, but reporters are supposed to ask tough questions to find the humanity in stories.
The overall medal count obscures how these small countries are outperforming their rivals in 2014.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Just before Russian figure-skating pair Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov took the ice in last night’s free-skate event, NBC cut to a short package about the gold-medal favorites (and eventual gold medalists). After a few moments’ worth of practice footage and behind-the-scenes stories from the four years the pair has been skating together, NBC’s reporter asked Trankov and Volosozhar the inevitable question: Is the palpable, sensual chemistry they exude on the ice based in real-life romance?
Given the unique talent, rare achievements, and all-consuming dedication of these two world-class athletes, it’s obviously somewhat silly for a reporter to push past the discussion of their professional accomplishments and instead ask about love lives. But the modern Olympics, whether we like it or not, have become an opportunity for viewers to get to know elite athletes by proxy, to feel like they’re rooting for their friends-once-removed. It’s only natural to want to know what kind of love drives a champion to succeed at the Games—in this case, whether it’s love of sport, love of country, or love of teammate.
Listening to the reporter’s paraphrasing during the segment, you might get the impression that the Volosozhar and Trankov are simply elusive or private about the status of their relationship off the ice; they’d effectively skirted the issue for some time now, the reporter summarized. But Volosozhar and Trankov’s assessment of whether they’re a couple was both direct and quietly astonishing: They are, sort of.
Russia is nine hours ahead, so we all knew what would happen, and somehow that made it even worse. At first Shaun White—flying tomato, snowboarding legend, two-time Olympic gold medalist—sailed through the halfpipe with characteristic aplomb. Then, there was trouble on one of his first tricks, and he slid down part of the ramp on his rear.
"That’s okay!" we thought (or would have thought, had we not already seen the result on Twitter.) There was still time for White to recover the run.
He launched into another stunt, but this time his board snagged and he crashed, tush-first, into the pipe’s blue ledge. He sheepishly slid out into the results area, smiling but certainly not pleased with himself.
White placed fourth, and the Swiss Iouri Podladtchikov became the new king of the “cab doublecork 1440.”
Read more. [Image: Lucas Jackson/Reuters]
Wednesday’s preliminary match was totally thrilling. Just imagine what it’ll be like if the two superpowers of the women’s game meet again for the top Olympic prize.
Read more. [Image: Matt Slocum/AP]
With the world’s attention focused on Sochi, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at some of the earliest Winter Olympics. At the first Winter Games in 1924 in Chamonix, France, 16 countries sent 250 athletes to compete in familiar sports like bobsleigh and hockey. The 1936 Winter Olympics were held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in Nazi Germany, after which the Games were cancelled until 1948 due to World War II. The photos below are from Olympic Winter Games I-XII, which took place from 1924 to 1976.