Urgent call to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in solidarity with Istanbul


June 11th 2013

A photo of a 13-year old child injured in the police attack on the protest.

 

This is an urgent call to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from Istanbul

Valuable members of the IOC;

This is an urgent call from Istanbulites, from all ages, social and political backgrounds, associations, ideologies and beliefs. This is a call from Urban Movements Istanbul / Habitat International Network together with People’s Houses on behalf the citizens of Istanbul whose right to life has been threatened by a government determined to crush a peaceful resistance against the demolishment of a public park ( Gezi Park) by means of unproportional use of force through excessive utilization of tear gas and pepper gas bombs over limits, the use of plastic bullets and more over the deliberate use of canisters as bullets to target and hit armless people.

Up to now the police has intervened and used brutal force 4 times in Taksim against peaceful demonstrators; the last one taking place this morning. There are 3 deaths and after this morning’s violent attack, we are afraid that there may be more losses. The resistance has spread to the other cities and there are nearly 10,000 people injured throughout Turkey, 23 of which fatal. The right to peaceful assembly and to demonstration, the right to expression, to freedom of opinion and to life have been and is being (at the moment as well) grossly violated by the government.

Valuable members of the IOC, the ideals of Olympic Games rest on friendship, peace, democratic values and freedoms. We are sending you just 3 of the hundreds of  videos documenting the unproportional use of force by the police; these are material evidences of the brutality and are more than enough proof of how the government violates  the ideals of Olympics.
http://alkislarlayasiyorum.com/icerik/126067/yabanci-medyadan-gezi-parki-belgeseli-istanbul-rising

this morning http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2013/06/201361111245916696.html
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151523695173492&set=vb.142140739308470&type=2&theater (ankara 10-11 june midnight)

Having Istanbul on the list of applicants will be tantamount to pepper gasing these ideals.

Having Istanbul on the list will mean bombing these ideals.

Keeping Istanbul on the list disgraces Olympic ideals.

 

 

We, as Istanbulites whose lives are under threat, request the IOC to take Istanbul out of the list of cities for Olympics 2020 in order to reclaim the honour of Olympic ideals.

On behalf of                                                                        On behalf of

Urban Movements Istanbul / HIC Network                 People’s Houses

Cihan Uzunçarşılı Baysal                                                    Çiğdem Çidamlı

 

Supporting Signatories

KALYANİ MENON-SEN  (INDIA)

KAMAYANI BALI MAHABAL (INDIA )

 

 

 

The one-armed wonder- Disability not a deterrent for Bruna


By N Jagannath Das – HYDERABAD

10th December 2012 08:36 AM, IE

She is indeed a one-armed wonder. Having lost her right arm at the age of three years, because of a doctor’s blunder for injecting a wrong vaccine, Bruna Alexandre has lived to fight the handicap with more able-bodied peers. The 17-year-old is a member of the Brazilian team that is taking part in the Volkswagen 10th World Junior Table Tennis championship being held at the SAP Indoor Stadium in Gachibowli. Bruna did not disappoint in her first outing when she routed Lucena Josmary of Venezula 11-3, 11-7, 11-6 in Brazil’s 3-0 win in the first match today.

She earned a place in the main team after some creditable performances in the national tournaments and is currently the third best player in her country in the junior rankings. Coach Lincon Yasuda says that Bruna is one of the most talented players of their country. “She plays an aggressive game. She plays a lot of top spin and plays far and across the table,” said Yasuda.

Bruna participated in the London Paralympics where she lost in the quarter-finals to a Chinese player. “It was one of my best performances,” said Bruna, who had earlier won numerous tournaments in her country. She idolizes Natalia Partyka, a one-armed table tennis player from Poland. Partyka was born without a right hand and forearm. Like Partyka, Bruna dreams of participating in the Olympics too. “I’m inspired by Natalia. One day, even I want to play at the Olympics,” said Bruna, who is also fan of Kaka, the famous Brazilian football player for a simple reason that he is handsome.

Hailing from Santa Katrina, which lies south of Brazil, Bruna’s love for table tennis started because of her brother Bruno at the age of eight years. “I used to accompany my brother to the nearby club where I got attracted to the game. Initially, I thought it would be difficult to play with one hand but gradually I began to get a feel of the racket and began to play,” she pointed out.

However, it was the service that bothered her initially. “I used to keep the racket in the handicap right-arm pit and then throw the ball up. But I found it difficult as the racket became wet and I had to change my style. I began to practice to throw the ball up and then go for the service. It took two months to perfect it,” said Bruna, who now holds the racket and puts the ball on top of the thumb of her left hand before tossing it for service. It took a little while before her talent and the game was noticed. She began to win tournaments before even being picked for the state and the national squads. Bruna has played at eight international para table tennis tournaments, including the London Paralympics. In individual and team events, she has played about 66 matches, won 56 of them. This is her maiden trip to India. “I want to make it a memorable one,” she said with a smiling face.

Little Ellie & The Olympian: The Kindest Race Ever


–by The Huffington PostOriginal Story, Aug 10, 2012

He’s a world record holding sprinter from South Africa. She’s a spunky 5-year-old from Essex, England. In an inspiring series of images that have recently gone viral, the two strangers, united only by a stubborn refusal to let double amputations stop them, race each other in a friendly bionic foot race.

Oscar “Blade Runner” Pistorious, 25, was just 11 months old when doctors discovered he had no fibulas, requiring below-the-knee amputations of both his legs. Ellie May Challis lost both her hands and legs at 16 months, after contracting a severe case of meningitis.

Although Ellie was originally fitted with standard prosthetics, the toddler found them difficult to walk with. More sophisticated carbon fiber legs — the kind worn by Pistorious — were expensive, but Ellie’s community rallied behind her, raising the $15,000 needed for the replacements. In 2009, the 5-year-old became the youngest person ever to be fitted with carbon fiber prostheses.

Held at an indoor track in Enfield, North London, little Ellie actually bested the champion sprinter in all four of their 15-meter races, to the cheers of her twin sister Sophie, and older siblings Taila and Connor.

In a historic announcement, Pistorious, who runs using special Cheetah Flex Footlimbs, was granted permission to race in the London 2012 Olympic Games,reversing a ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The International Association of Athletics had ruled Pistorious could not compete in the games because his Flex Foot limbs represented an unfair advantage. However, the Court reviewed evidence from two new (and conflicting) studies before making its ruling in favor of Pistorious.

Pistorious qualified for the semifinal heat of the 400 meter race on Sunday, but failed to qualify for the finals. His time, 46.54 seconds, was two seconds slower than the heat’s winner, reigning world champion Kirani James of Grenada. In a show of respect and sportsmanship, James embraced Pistorious after the race and asked to exchange bib numbers.

I just see him as another athlete, another competitor,” James told reporters the day before the semifinal. “What’s more important is I see him as another person. He’s someone I admire and respect.”

For his part, in an interview on the TODAY show, Pistorious said he willcherish his Olympic memories for “the rest of [his] life.” As his 89-year-old grandmother watched from the stands, Pistorious said, “Hearing the roar of the crowd and knowing that there were so many people behind me just made it that much more enjoyable.

Check out more adorable photos of Ellie and Oscar Pistorius below:

The Olympics’ Greatest Feat: An Unpaid, Highly Engaged Workforce


by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones  |   August 8, 2012, Harvard Buisness Review

They are all over the Games. They greet you at the airport. They direct you from the trains. They guide you through the Olympic Park. Danny Boyle acknowledged them as the key to the success of the opening ceremony.

There are 70,000 of them, constituting nearly half of the Olympic workforce, Britain’s biggest peacetime mobilization of people since the Second World War. They make this extraordinary event possible.

They are the volunteers … and they are everywhere.

Their approach is a joy. They talk to strangers with enthusiasm. They make jokes about the weather. They are helpful and polite. They love what they are doing. They say “have a nice day.” And they mean it.

When visitors marvel about the spirit of the games, the volunteers are a very big part of it. They are drawn from every corner of the UK and every background. Filling their ranks are students and pensioners, the unemployed alongside high flyers. A very senior oil executive who is a neighbor of ours was at Heathrow greeting incoming teams at 5:00 in the morning. He loved it.

What’s more, their enthusiasm is contagious. It affects others who are “normal” employees. Airport staff seem to have a new spring in their step. Policemen have a smile. The underground staff are really keen to help you on your way. The people cleaning tables at the food stalls pause to ask how you are.

What these workers are doing is exceeding the normal expectations of their roles. And what a difference it makes. We get carried along, too. As “customers“? Well, not really. We feel in partnership, sharing a joint enthusiasm for what is unfolding in front of us. We are in this together as people.

A theme of our recent research is that, when people interact with an enterprise, they don’t want to encounter mere role-players—no matter how skilful they might be in their roles. They want authenticity, a sense that people are personally invested in their work. Curiously, the unpaid volunteers are providing just that sense. They are expressing their personal quirks and foibles in the seemingly mundane activities of giving people directions. They are expressing overwhelming enthusiasm and pride in taking part in something positive and important.

So what can the corporate world learn from all this? Certainly it is a world in which managers talk solemnly about their “engagement” efforts. And certainly that is because disengagement—a deep-rooted disenchantment with work—is a pervasive problem.

The Olympic volunteers remind us what real engagement looks like. They show us what organizations that fan the enthusiasm of their participants can deliver. They give new life to the old-fashioned notion that good work gives us good societies.

Of course, we sometimes see such passion in the business world, in the wild enthusiasms of R&D professionals in innovative engineering and pharmaceutical companies. Or more mundanely, when a shop assistant dispenses honest advice, drawing on long experience and real empathy for the problem a customer is trying to solve. We see it in the greengrocer who points with pride to the freshest vegetables, and the bartender who greets you by name and knows your favorite drink.

The “authentic organizations” we’ve found in our research are set apart by these small markers of humanity—and we’re finding that they outperform their competitors in the marketplace.

Here’s what we’re concluding: If companies organized more to draw on and fuel enthusiasms, and less to maximize efficiency, the problem of disengagement would be gone forever. The volunteers of the Olympics hint at what an alternative customer experience might look like. And it looks very exciting.

Rob Goffee is a professor of organizational behavior at London Business School. Gareth Jones is a visiting professor at IE Business School, in Madrid, and a Fellow of the Centre for Management Development at London Business School. They are the authors of Cleverand Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?.

Athletes don’t wear heels-Women at #Olympics are shaking off pressure to be feminine


 

BY THE AMERICAN PROSPECT

Athletes don't wear heelsA beach volleyball match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Monday in London. (AP)

This article originally appeared on The American Prospect.

Athleticism in women has generated social unease going back at least as far as the Greek myth of Atalanta, the princess who refused to marry a man who couldn’t beat her in a footrace and was finally conquered by a “hero” who beats her by cheating. Women in sports flout the feminine not only by being competitive, but by using their bodies for an end other than sex and child-bearing.
The American Prospect
Since they first started competing in 1900, female Olympians have faced pressure to relieve sexist anxieties by turning up the girliness, even if doing so hurts their performance. In the past, the need to distinguish female from male athletes—and thus preserve their femininity—has led the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to enforce silly uniform requirements like bikinis for beach volleyball and skirts for tennis.

Social ideals about femininity have also guided which female sports get the most attention: It tends to be those that highlight beauty and grace, such as gymnastics or figure skating. Note also that these sports tend to produce the pre-pubescent look, which has led to widespread eating disorders, such as the one that ended ice skater Jenny Kirk’s career. Pressure to be cute and tiny on gymnasts got so out of control that the Olympics finally set a minimum age requirement of 16.

This Olympics, however, feels like a step forward. Don’t get me wrong; there have been plenty of sexist incidents. Despite being one of the strongest women in the world, weightlifter Sarah Robles had a hard time attracting sponsors because of her size. Australian swimmer Leisel Jones was shamed by the press for weighing 150 pounds (Michael Phelps in his fighting-est form only weighed 30 pounds more). Despite these incidents, female athletes have felt free to shake off sexist expectations during this year’s games—and they’re getting surprisingly little blowback for it.

The change is apparent from the top. This year, beach volleyball players have the option of wearing more clothes than the regulation bikini required in the past (which has led to players wearing long-sleeved shirts to stave off the London chill), and the IOC struck down proposed rules that would have mandated skirts for female badminton and boxing competitors. This was also the first year that every country participating has female athletes on their teams, challenging notions of what women are capable of even in some of the most conservative countries on earth.

But the shift is most visible in the way that female athletes conduct themselves in public. Male athletics has always been a zone for bad-boy behavior; outside of requirements that athletes show good sportsmanship on the field, male athletes have plenty of room to be aggressive, party hard, and even to display a lack of humility that would be more off-putting if they weren’t as great as they say they are. From hockey players brawling to Derek Jeter’s womanizing and Muhammed Ali’s braggadocio—it’s hard to imagine what men’s sports would even look like without a hefty share of roughness, pride, and, of course, partying.

Now, more women are embracing the same bad-boy attitude; it’s become alright to be a tomboy. Hope Solo, the keeper for the U.S. women’s soccer team, has a reputation for being a loudmouth, which she’s earned with stunts like running down fellow soccer player Brandi Chastain on Twitter for criticizing the team’s defensive strategy. In a highly circulated story about all the partying that goes on in the Olympic Village, Solo openly bragged about sexual conquests, saying, “I may have snuck a celebrity back to my room without anybody knowing, and snuck him back out.” The press has for the most part reported this straightforwardly, without a hint of the hand-wringing that accompanied other incidents of female athletes acting like their male counterparts—remember the wall-to-wall tut-tutting Chastain received for stripping off her jersey at the 1999 World Cup?

Solo is in good company. Megan Rapinoe, who was one of the stand-out players during the last World Cup, officially came out as a lesbian this year. The news coverage of this has been perfunctory to the point that one might forget that coming out was unthinkable even a few years back—and still is to a large degree for male athletes. The team captain Abby Wambach identifies as straight, but she’s not particularly interested in being girly, either. After getting punched in the face by Colombia’s Lady Andrade, Wambach tweeted pictures of her shiner, complete with jokes mocking how unladylike it is: “#reverseeyesmoke #notcool.”

Women aren’t just playing rough; they’re owning their bodies, shaking off the pressure to attend to their attractiveness before their athleticism. Zoe Smith, a weightlifter from Great Britain, decided to go online and let her critics know that she didn’t “give a toss” if they think strong, muscular women are unfeminine and unattractive, adding that she preferred to be with men who were open-minded about female strength. Another weightlifter, 350-pound Holley Mangold, smacked down Conan O’Brien’s mockery of her weight and strength by tweeting, “#dontactlikeyournotimpressed.” He should be; she’s only been training since 2008 and now she’s in the Olympics.

Even if the media wanted to maintain an image of the demure, petite female Olympian, the women themselves clearly won’t be having it. For no other reason than pure competition, women from all sorts of backgrounds have been redefining what’s acceptable.


Read more of The American Prospect at http://www.prospect.org.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and journalist. She’s published two books and blogs regularly at Pandagon, RH Reality Check and Slate’s Double X

 

Draconian ‘Wi-Fi police’ stalk #LondonOlympicGames


 

August 3, 2012,Asher Moses,Technology Editor

All unauthorised Wi-Fi networks including smartphone hotspots are banned from Olympic venues.All unauthorised Wi-Fi networks including smartphone hotspots are banned from Olympic venues. Photo: Sadao Turner Esq

You’ve probably heard of the overzealous Olympic Games “brand police” harassing old ladies making Olympic cakes and other shop owners getting into the Olympic spirit, but how about the “Wi-Fi police”?

The Olympics brand is the second most valuable brand in the world at $US45 billion.

Sponsors pay tens of millions of pounds to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for exclusive rights to spruik their wares around London and beyond, and the IOC will stop at nothing to protect those revenue streams.

BT is the “official communications services provider” for the Olympics and has 1500 Wi-Fi hotspots at Olympic sites, with prices starting from £5.99 for 90 minutes. It’s the largest single Wi-Fi venue installation in Britain, according to BT.

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To protect this lucrative deal – and presumably minimise any potential technical interference – LOCOG, the London Olympics organising committee, has banned “personal/private wireless access points and 3G hubs” from Olympic venues.

Want to create a wireless hotspot on your smartphone so you can get online on your laptop or tablet in between matches? That’s prohibited, as are portable Wi-Fi hotspot devices.

Sadao Turner Esq, director of new media for TV personality Ryan Seacrest’s production company, tweeted a photo of the “Olympics Wi-Fi police” that are charged with seeking out unauthorised Wi-Fi hotspots with big red detectors.

The absurdities don’t end there. According to Britain’s Daily Telegraph, Fish and chip stalls have been advised they are not allowed to serve chips on their own without fish as McDonald’s is the official chip maker of the Games. The Independent reported that the ban on chips extended to 800 retailers at the 40 Olympic venues.

Hundreds of uniformed Olympics officers have been patrolling London enforcing the multimillion-dollar marketing deals signed with companies such as Visa, Proctor & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Adidas, McDonald’s and BP.

Only official sponsors who have paid a certain amount of money are permitted to use Olympic Games trademarks in their advertising.

Under laws specifically passed for the London Games, the brand army has rights to enter shops and business premises and bring courts actions and fines up to £20,000.

Words such as “Olympic”, “gold”, “silver”, “bronze”, “sponsors”, “summer” and “London” have been banned from business advertisements so as not to give the impression they are connected to the Olympics. Even pubs can’t have signs displaying brands of beer that are not official sponsors.

LOCOG has previously said that the sponsor rights were acquired by companies for millions of pounds and this helped support the staging of the games. It said people who sought the same benefits for free by “engaging in ambush marketing or producing counterfeit goods” were effectively depriving the games of revenue.

From a public relations perspective, this hasn’t played well with Londoners, who could breach the legislation simply by getting into the spirit of the games. Residents have also missed out on tickets only to see rows of empty seats in sections reserved for sponsors.

Today they are reading rumours that just 15 Games organisers spent $70,000 on lunch.

To see why Olympics organisers go to such lengths to protect sponsors you only have to follow the money. The Olympics brand is the second most valuable brand in the world at $US45 billion, according to a study by consultants Brand Finance.

Apple is the only brand ahead of it, worth $US70 billion. Both maintain this value by going after anyone they perceive to be using their trademarks.

The Olympics brand has increased in value by 87 per cent since the Beijing Games, largely off the back of a rise in broadcast rights – deals which punters complain are also preventing them from fully enjoying the Games. Ticketholders have also been told not to post photos or videos of matches to social networking sites.

Matthew Gain, digital director of public relations agency Edelman, said there was a “fine line that needs to be tread” between the commercial realities and the ability of consumers to enjoy the Games.

The Olympics are expensive to run and sponsors provide a chunk of the cash, so they expect that competitors won’t be able to get the same or similar benefits for free.

“However at the same time you don’t want to protect that investment so much that you piss off everyone,” he said.

“You’ve got to keep sensible about it and you’ve got to remember that the moment that you as a brand by protecting your own brand start inhibiting consumer choice and consumer behaviour … then that’s when you start risking impacting and affecting your brand.”

So have organisers gone too far in this instance? “Some of the protection of the stuff in the UK where you’ve seen the local cake shop being told that they need to stop displaying the Olympic rings cake that they’ve made and put in the window is perhaps a little bit too far,” said Gain.

“I think if it’s a mum and dad business that’s not really benefiting from the Olympics but getting into the Olympic spirit … that’s probably where you’ve gone a little bit too far.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/technology/technology-news/draconian-wifi-police-stalk-olympic-games-20120803-23jdc.html#ixzz22erBpcpB

 

Ringing in change – Haryana’s Olympics #LondonOlympics #Sundayreading


Haryana‘s Olympics

Siddharth Saxena and Ajay Sura | August 4, 2012

Gagan Narang‘s bronze medal – India‘s only London Olympic podium finish at the time of writing – has sent everyone back home into a tizzy. As congratulatory messages poured in, Ajay Maken, India’s proactive Sports Minister offered Narang a post in the Sports Authority of India, equivalent to an IAS-rank. The Hyderabad-based Narang also got a bonanza from an unlikely source. Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda promptly dished out Rs 1 crore from his state kitty to the shooter. The CM lost no time in staking claim on the portly Narang and his achievement once it was pointed out that Narang’s grandparents belong to a village called Shimla, Gulshan in Haryana’s Panipat district. Narang was even born there. The block – Baboli – was promptly identified. Reason enough. On that train of thought, the Hooda administration may well be focusing on the other Hyderabadi with a medal hope this Olympics.

Shuttler Saina Nehwal bowed out to world No 1 Yihan Wang of China in the fight for a place in the women’s singles final. The no-nonsense 22-year-old has always claimed she belongs to the Deccan city having grown up and learnt her craft there. But Hooda will be more interested in the fact that she was born into a Jat family to the most mild-mannered of parents in Dhindar in Haryana’s Hisar district.

Narang and Nehwal aside, our current Olympic contingent’s Haryana connection is a strong one. Nearly 20 of the 81 Indian athletes in London are from Haryana or have roots in Haryana. The tiny state has the largest representation of all Indian states at the Olympics. Nearly 60 per cent of India’s medals at the Commonwealth Games in the Capital two years ago came from Haryana’s sportsmen – or players as they are called in their local lingo. Haryana, alongside its dark and forbidding avatar as perceived by the country, is actually proving to be a wonderful nursery for Indian sports. The landlocked, primarily agricultural – and vegetarian – state is throwing up winners by the dozen.

Narang and Nehwal’s may not be obvious but there’s no ambiguity on the Haryana identity of the others. Bhiwani boy Vijender Singh squeezed out a single-point win over US boxer Terrel Gausha to be one win away from a certain medal, and more largesse from the Hooda kitty.

The handsome son of a Haryana Roadways driver, Vijender is Haryana’s poster-boy, unapologetic about his strong local twang and proud to sport it whenever he gets a public forum. Vijender effortlessly plugs Haryana in the national eye, not just in his boxing, but also by his confident and easy-going posturing.

Many accuse Hooda of trying to gain political mileage, piggybacking on Haryana sportsmen in an election year. Others, however, claim there is a genuine sports lover behind the politician and understanding the nation-building attributes of sport, he has drawn up ambitious long-reaching state-run programmes (See The State of Sports).

Haryana is an intriguing paradox. The story of the Bhiwani Boxing Club has been well-documented over the past four years. But it is the rise of strong-willed women athletes that may have the potential to create an impact in a society where the khap panchayat writ seems to hold greater sway than the law of the land. In a state with horrific female foeticide levels, successful women athletes possibly can swing perceptions where no amount of awareness, counselling or ‘development’ can.

Of course, there still are groups of elders who continue to frown upon women taking up sport (see box). But the emergence of towering personalities like Krishna Poonia, a discus thrower with a mean arm, a judoka-first in Garima Chaudhary, Geeta Phogat, the first Indian woman wrestler at the Olympics, is pushing limits: there’s hope that things could be looking up for Haryana’s women.

It’s not been easy for the fathers of these girls who fought against the odds to train their daughters. Maha Singh, Krishna’s father, recounts how he faced the wrath of his family as well as his village’s chiefs when his daughter practised on the village road in tight sports slacks. In Agroha, a nondescript village in Hisar district, Maha Singh lost his wife when Krishna was just nine, but he raised her without bothering about what people said. “Today I am being called by these khaps along with my daughter to honour us. Certainly the glory and glamour attached to sports has changed the entire perception, ” he says.
Says local woman activist Ritu Jaglan: “Earlier, a girl was thought just a matter of honour. The outside world was not for them as parents had a lot of apprehensions about their security. Now, all that is changing. ”

Ritu, a pioneering 26-year-old English graduate from Kurukshetra University, who took on the task of training women to speak up at khap panchayats, feels sport can help change the mindset towards women. “Most importantly, girls are increasingly realising their own importance in society. That is the most crucial transformation. People too are realising that women can do well, ” she says.

Take the case of Gyanna Devi. The sprightly 82-year-old – Geeta Phoghat’s grandmother – today is chuffed that her granddaughter is in a foreign country competing against the best in the world. In a lighter vein, she also claims to have imparted wrestling tips to Geeta before she left for London, but it was an entirely different story a decade ago. “When Babita was born, she slapped her forehead and exclaimed, ‘Lo, ek aur aa gayee’, ” says a Phogat family insider. That Babita, like Geeta, went on to win a Commonwealth Games gold medal in Delhi two years ago scarcely hides the fact that their father, Mahaveer, first fought battles of equality with his own mother before he could muster the courage to take on the villagers.

In those two years, since the CWG medals, there has been a rise in khap-related crimes. These may be unrelated, but you cannot ignore the ironic coincidence.

“These khaps exist, these social decision-making groups have been in our society for generations now. Even I follow them. If, among a group of five men, one commits a mistake, we sit him down and explain that what he’s doing is wrong. Hum aisa koi kaam na karen ki mere khap ki badnaami ho, ya mere kaam ki badnaami ho, ” says Mahaveer.

Then he adds: “I have arranged a match for Geeta, but if our plans are to participate in the next Olympics too (Rio 2016), marriage can wait. ”

GO PLAY, GET A JOB
There is another simpler reason for the greater acceptance of sports: It helps you get a job. Take the case of talented teenaged boxer Sumit Sangwan, unlucky to bow out in the first round in London, due to some dodgy refereeing. The idea to take up boxing came when the family in Sekhpura Sohna realised that they could not afford to raise two sons on the produce of their land alone. An enterprising uncle recognised a latent spark in Sumit and took him to a boxing academy in Delhi. Older brother Amit had to forgo his nascent boxing dreams. There was room and money for only one. While they still till the land, parents Surender and Anita realise there’s a better opportunity in the making.
But let’s hear it from the spunkiest daughter of Haryana. “Bhai, main poori tarah se Haryana ki hoon, ” announces Karnam Malleswari. Originally from a coastal village near Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, Malleswari married into a Jat family in 1999. In Sydney 2000, the lifter won bronze, to date India’s only woman Olympic medallist.

“The promise of jobs for sportsmen by the Haryana government is a great incentive, ” says Malleswari. “They must be lauded for inculcating a sporting culture in the state. You can see small stadiums sprouting all across the state. Coaches are being employed either in short-term capacities or a permanent basis, ” she points out.

“The idea that sports can be a source of livelihood is a great motivator. And that is also helping change mindsets towards sports in Haryana too. Parents are beginning to understand this, ” she says.
But Malleswari didn’t have to face any opposition from her parents in Andhra when she began. “We never had such a culture where our parents thought of our interest in a sport as awkward or as something which brought dishonour. ”

Malleswari’s Olympic bronze medal at the turn of the century, in fact, went a long way in changing the mindset towards women in sports. “There has been a sea-change in the sports culture in the country on the whole, ” she says.

Whether the rise of sportswomen in Haryana is helping change the attitude of the state’s men towards them is still a matter of debate. “I am in no position to explain what really happens in the rural interiors of Haryana, but I feel kaafi awareness aa gayi hai, ” Malleswari says, adding “Itna bhed-bhav nahi hai. ”

Earlier the main worry of parents was who would marry their daughters who wrestled or lifted barbells. Today, like Geeta Phogat’s mother proudly says, ‘ab toh ladkon ki line lag jayegi’.

(With inputs from Sukhbir Siwach)

Double amputee, ‘Blade Runner’ creates Olympic history #disability


 

EDDIE PELLS

Last updated 22:57 04/08/2012
Oscar Pistorius
BLADE RUNNER: Oscar Pistorius (right) of South Africa shakes hands with Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic after finishing second in his 400m heat.

It began with a smile at the starting line.

Moments later, Oscar Pistorius took off and the click-click-clicking of carbon on the ground was all but drowned out by the 80,000 fans on hand to watch him make history today. The first amputee to compete in track at the Olympics, Pistorius cruised past an opponent or two in his 400-meter heat, and by the end, the “Blade Runner” was coasting in for a stress-free success.

Typical. Except this time, it was anything but that.

“I’ve worked for six years … to get my chance,” said the South African, who finished second and advanced to Monday morning’s (NZ time) semifinals. “I found myself smiling in the starting block.”

Yes, this sun-splashed day at Olympic Stadium was a good one for Pistorius, a double-amputee who runs on carbon-fiber blades and whose fight to get to this point has often felt more like a marathon than a sprint.

Finally racing where he always felt he belonged, he finished in a time of 45.44 seconds, crossing the line and looking up at the scoreboard, then covering his face with his hands when he saw the capital “Q” – for qualifier – go up by his name.

The 25-year-old runner was born without fibulas and his legs were amputated below the knee before he was a year old. His is one of those stories that is every bit as much about the journey – dramatic, inspiring and controversial – as the final result.

“I know Oscar was the protagonist in the race,” said Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic, who actually won the heat by .4 but went virtually unnoticed. “But I love him. He’s a good racer.”

Pistorius has four Paralympic gold medals to prove that, but this latest trip around the track is about something bigger than that.

He waged a long fight to run in the Olympics against able-bodied opponents.

After dozens of hearings in front of hundreds of men and women in suits charged with the task of deciding whether the blades gave Pistorius an unfair advantage – then getting his country’s Olympic committee to enter him into the games – Pistorius finally got his chance.

He shook hands with his opponents, crouched into the blocks, flashed that smile and then – in so many ways, it was just another race, with Pistorius among the fastest men in it.

“I just see him as another athlete, another competitor,” world champion Kirani James said.

Bursting out of the crouch from Lane 6, Pistorius got going slowly, but built up steam in the backstretch. He made up the lag and was easily among the top three when the runners turned into the backstretch. He passed Russia’s Maksim Dyldin and then, as all the top runners do in a 400 prelim, let off the gas over the final few meters to save energy for the next one.

 

How Olympic Weightlifter Zoe Smith Owned Her Twitter Trolls


 

By Annie-Rose Strasser on Jul 31, 2012 a

Being able to lift 267 pounds is only one of the things that makes 18 year-old British Olympic weightlifter Zoe Smith tough. She can also swat down sexist Twitter trolls like they’re flies.

While Smith was preparing to set an Olympic record for Great Britain in the clean-and-jerk event, men (and some women) on Twitter were busy saying she wasn’t attractive enough, or that she was manly, or that there was something wrong with her body because she was so muscular.

So Smith took to her blog to respond:

[We] don’t lift weights in order to look hot, especially for the likes of men like that. What makes them think that we even WANT them to find us attractive? If you do, thanks very much, we’re flattered. But if you don’t, why do you really need to voice this opinion in the first place, and what makes you think we actually give a toss that you, personally, do not find us attractive? What do you want us to do? Shall we stop weightlifting, amend our diet in order to completely get rid of our ‘manly’ muscles, and become housewives in the sheer hope that one day you will look more favourably upon us and we might actually have a shot with you?! Cause you are clearly the kindest, most attractive type of man to grace the earth with your presence.

Oh but wait, you aren’t. This may be shocking to you, but we actually would rather be attractive to people who aren’t closed-minded and ignorant. Crazy, eh?! We, as any women with an ounce of self-confidence would, prefer our men to be confident enough in themselves to not feel emasculated by the fact that we aren’t weak and feeble.

Sexism seems to be almost as common as sweat at this year’s Olympics — which has a record number of women participating — from female boxers being asked to wear skirts to differentiate them from the men to women’s teams taking coach while men’s fly first class.

 

#Olympic Games and the tricky science of telling men from women


 

Olympics gender testing

Gender tests may be the most controversial obstacle the athletes face. The London Games tries a new approach based on testosterone.

By Jon Bardin, Los Angeles TimesJuly 30, 2012, 5:03 a.m.

Of all the obstacles athletes have had to overcome to compete in the Olympics, perhaps the most controversial has been the gender test.

Originally designed to prevent men from competing in women’s events, it is based on the premise that competitors can be sorted into two categories via established scientific rules. But the biological boundaries of gender aren’t always clear.

Consider the Spanish hurdler Maria Jose Martinez-Patiño. A gender test revealed that she had a Y chromosome, which normally makes a person male. She also had complete androgen insensitivity syndrome, or CAIS, which prevented her body from responding properly to testosterone and caused her to develop as a woman.

The Spanish Athletic Federation got her test results in 1986, just before a major competition that would have set her up for an Olympic run. Though she won the 60-meter hurdles, the federation declared her ineligible for the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul.

The International Olympic Committee has struggled with cases like these, variously using hair patterns, chromosomes, individual genes and other factors in their long-running attempts to distinguish men from women. All of these tests have been discarded.

For the London Games, officials are going by a new set of rules that shifts the focus from DNA to testosterone, a hormone that aids muscle development, endurance and speed.

To a group of increasingly vocal skeptics, the very notion of gender testing is flawed and efforts to measure it biologically are doomed to fail. But some experts said they had to try anyway.

“There is no single metric for sex or athletic potential,” said Eric Vilain, director of the Center for Gender-Based Biology at UCLA. But he called the new testosterone-based test a pragmatic solution to a real problem. “I have talked to many elite female athletes, and I haven’t found one who is comfortable with the idea of having no testing,” he said.

Once it’s agreed that men and women should compete separately, how should officials divide them up?

It’s not a rhetorical question. Though most people fall neatly into “male” and “female” categories, some do not. The fact that there are people with physical or genetic traits of both sexes prompted the IOC to rethink its gender test.

The new rules, announced last month, disqualify athletes from women’s events if they have testosterone levels in the normal male range, which is 7 to 30 nanomoles per liter of blood. Because the top range for women is slightly below 3 nanomoles per liter, such levels could give athletes an unfair advantage that officials have a duty to root out, said Dr. Arne Ljungqvist, chairman of IOC’s Medical Commission and a former Olympic high jumper. Athletes with complete androgen insensitivity will be allowed to compete.

It’s impossible to say how many athletes in London will be affected by the new test, Ljungqvist said. Unlike past tests, which were given to all competitors in women’s events, this one will be administered only when the chief medical officer of a national Olympic committee or a member of the IOC’s medical commission requests it.

Ljungqvist said the test had a narrow purpose: “We are not determining the gender in an individual. What we are talking about is athletic eligibility.”

Most of the studies linking more testosterone with better athletic performance have been small and focused on men. Its value to female athletes is hazier.

“We don’t know much about the biological characteristics of testosterone in healthy women,” said University of Michigan biopsychologist Sari van Anders. “People only tend to look at testosterone in women when there’s a health issue.”

The picture is particularly murky for Olympic-caliber women. Experts know of only one report on the relationship between testosterone and performance of elite female athletes. That study of 22 sprinters and volleyball players found that those with the highest levels could jump about 4 inches higher than those with the lowest levels.

But if testosterone were essential to athletic success, Martinez-Patiño would have been doomed to fail because her body can’t use the hormone. Many women with androgen insensitivity have competed in the Olympics, and “the idea that testosterone is a necessary ingredient for elite athletic performance is really undermined by these cases,” Van Anders said.

In fact, androgen insensitivity is overrepresented among female athletes, Vilain added: The general population has an incidence of 1 in 20,000, but for Olympic athletes it is about 1 in 400. No one knows why.

Vilain participated in the IOC’s deliberations over the testosterone test and said the new rules, while imperfect, were a step in the right direction.

“If we could just have a social answer and let everyone declare their own sex, that would be great,” he said. But “if we say, ‘Anyone who says they’re a woman is a woman,’ I worry that people will always take advantage of that.”

Accusations of men masquerading as women in the Olympics go back at least as far as 1936, the year questions were raised about American sprinter Helen Stephens after her upset win at the Berlin Summer Games. Stephens passed some sort of gender test — the details are lost to history — and was awarded a gold medal.

The Cold War raised tensions between the U.S. and Soviet-bloc teams. Whispers about men posing as women were rampant on both sides, leading the IOC to devise a testing procedure in the 1960s. Athletes had to parade nude in front of physicians, submit to genital exams and have their hair patterns analyzed before they could receive certificates of femininity.

In 1967, that gave way to a more scientific test based on DNA. In people with two X chromosomes, one of them is inactivated and curls up into a tight ball, which the test detects. But the test proved inadequate in cases of conditions like complete androgen insensitivity syndrome, in which athletes had an X and a Y chromosome but the biological appearance of a woman.

Martinez-Patiño fought her case for two years, enlisting experts to prove that her XY status gave her no advantage because her body could not benefit from extra testosterone.

Officials reinstated her in 1988, just a few months after the Seoul Games. At the 1992 Olympic trials leading up to Barcelona, she missed qualifying for the Spanish team by one-tenth of a second.

After her case, the IOC switched to a test based on a gene called SRY, which initiates testes development. But since the gene is on the Y chromosome and merely tests for that chromosome’s presence, it suffered the same flaws. Eight female athletes failed the SRY test at the 1996 Atlanta Games, though all had androgen insensitivity and were ultimately cleared to compete.

That convinced the IOC to drop routine gender testing, but it and the International Assn. of Athletics Federations retained the right to test those suspected of competing under false pretenses or with medical conditions offering an unfair advantage.

That’s how South African runner Caster Semenya came to be tested at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics in Berlin. Her masculine face and build prompted accusations that she was a man.

The international association conducted an inquiry and cleared her to race after a 10-month ban. She carried her country’s flag in the opening ceremony for the London Games.

Association officials were criticized for the seemingly arbitrary nature of their inquiry. The new IOC policy is crafted to be more transparent, Ljungqvist said.

To Martinez-Patiño, now a professor of sports science at the University of Vigo in Spain, the new rules echo the old — they just use a different metric. “Over time they will conduct research and demonstrate the ineffectiveness of this test,” she said, “just as has happened with the others.”

jon.bardin@latimes.com

 

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