Caster Semenya, a South American middle distance runner, has an uncanny ability to get to the line first. She runs the 800m; the half-mile, two laps around the track, often referred to as ‘the world’s longest sprint’. All races are painful, but this one is especially. Her competitors struggle down the homestretch, clenching jaws. Their arms flail, form breaking down as they pray for the finish line to come to them. Their legs are bathed in lactic acid and don’t want to move. Semenya floats by these fading competitors, light as a feather.
In the world of elite athletics, margins of victory are often tiny. Races are determined by desperate leans, by hundredths of seconds. It’s difficult to dominate among the best of the best. But Semenya absolutely destroys the competition–in the 2009 World Championships, at just 18 years old, she won gold by over two and a half seconds.
After this incredible performance, whispers began to follow Semenya. Disappointed competitors and disgruntled fans accused her of being a man. Caster is 5’10 and 161 lbs of pure muscle. She is very masculine looking, with broad shoulders and bulging, muscular legs. Her dreads fly when she runs and she often sticks out her tongue. She races in knee-length half tights, unlike the rest of her competitors in crop tops and buns.
These whispers grew too loud to ignore. Following her win, the IAAF mandated that Semenya undergo invasive sex testing. Tell what they did She was found to have both male and female sexual characteristics; no womb or ovaries and undescended testes. Semenya is intersex.
One of the ways that this manifests is high testosterone levels, triple the typical level in female athletes. This is an obvious and unfair advantage. Testosterone allows athletes to produce more muscle, allowing for more strength and power. Both men and women produce testosterone. Females use it to produce more estrogen, the equivalent female hormone.
The IAAF struggled for how to deal with this. After the London 2012 Olympics, where Semenya earned a silver medal, they forced her to take testosterone-suppressing drugs, and her performances faltered. Semenya’s fastest time in 2015 was just 2:03.18. However, Indian sprinter Dutee Chand protested and eventually overturned those rules. Semenya is again competing in her natural body, blowing away the competition just in time for Rio.
The debate is incredibly complicated, but it can be reduced to the question: whose rights need to be protected most? Is it intersex women, who deserve the right to compete in their own bodies? Semenya is great, but she is not capable of competing on a world-class level for men. And doesn’t everyone deserve the right for athletic competition, especially minorities like intersex people who are so often shunned and banned from society?
Some argue that hyperandrogenism is simply the direction that the sport is heading. It’s just another advantage, like height and build and muscle composition, that differentiates the best from the rest.
But what about female athletes? They are being trounced by not just Semenya. In fact, all three of the fastest women over 800m in 2016 are rumored to be intersex. They’re the favorites and likely medalists in Rio. Is this fair? Don’t women deserve a platform for equal athletic competition, a right that they’ve been fighting for for centuries?
By Ihsaan Ali
The Olympics, a global event that decides a country’s greatness based on their people’s athletic ability. Every 4 years, they spit out their most talented runners, swimmers, gymnasts, and various other sports. These athletes have to go through grueling training to even qualify before they are permitted to represent their nations. Olympians are the best of the best, the cream of the crop. Not only are they pressured to win by themselves, they often have whole nations leaning on them, hoping for victory and bragging rights. The Olympics have become more than just an athletic competition, they have become the definers of a country’s prominence and capabilities.
Over the decades, Olympic athletes have become more than just players. They have penetrated the hearts and souls of the masses for a variety of different reasons. Overcoming hardships and crises, incredible athleticism, and being different have all played a part in their popularity. Although the 2016 Rio Olympics has just begun, there is already one athlete that has managed to capture the attention, if not the hearts, of not just the USA but the rest of the world as well. Ibtihaj Muhammad, a 30 year old fencing champion who ranks 2nd in the country and 12th internationally, who also happens to be Muslim, Black, and a hijabi. A hijabi is a Muslim woman who covers her hair due to religious reasons with a veil. She is truly a trailblazer to its very definition, as no Olympic athlete representing the U.S has been all three at once.
Muhammad has been causing quite a stir in these past few weeks. A Duke University graduate, this intelligent woman maintained her fencing rank, all while double majoring in International relations and African American studies and minoring in Arabic. As a child, her parents encouraged her and her siblings to all get involved in sports. Yet as a Muslim, it was difficult to find a sport in which the uniform did not have to be altered for modesty, and it quickly became tiring for her. Then, she and her mother discovered fencing, a sport which requires full body coverage, and Muhammad quickly took to it. Her hard work and athletic ability over the years have placed her at the top of her field.
Her appearance in the Olympics comes at a vital time for this country .The Black Lives Matter movement is gaining strength and garnering support as Black people demand equal treatment in the justice system.Muslims are working together to end the harsh religious stigmas placed on Islam by the media. Yet both of these movements have amassed much criticism from people like Donald Trump who claim that movements like the BLM are a “threat” to the nation, and Ibtihaj happens to be the perfect model to prove them wrong. She is everything the media claims a Muslim woman cannot do. She is a professional athlete, a successful clothing designer, and outspoken about the social justice issues plaguing the country right now. All of this while remaining true to her faith. How remarkable is it for this country to be represented by a woman of color, of the Muslim faith, during a time of such social turmoil in the US. A time when a man can build a whole presidential campaign off of hate and intolerance for others. Muhammad is a slap in the face, a good dose of reality for those people. America does not belong to anyone but those who build it up and keep it the greatest country in the world, regardless of race or religion.
To choose the host city the members of International Olympic Commission (IOC) investigate cities which have been elected. The IOC makes sure that the elected cities are big enough to handle the Olympics. Meaning that the city must have an adequate amount of hotels and venues for games, also the city should have enough funds to cover the event. Lastly the city must maintain a positive media exposure. This year Rio was chosen, many people are wary if Rio can handle the Olympics and if it is up to the job of keeping the games safe and enjoyable.
Why would Brazil want to take on this huge responsibility, which would involve spending so much money and resources? To make the games possible many people must pitch in, meaning thousands of new job openings. This may help Brazil’s economy from falling, or at least help it rise after the devastating drop in GDP in 2014. In addition to new jobs the Olympics draw in thousands of tourists and fans, helping hotels and restaurants gain a huge profit from this increase in tourism. But it is relatively arduous for Brazil to make any large profits on this after spending billions on stadiums, security upgrades, new roads, and better infrastructures.
Within the months approaching the Rio Olympics many were still prudent if the Olympics would have the same effect on welcoming viewers after Brazil’s unfulfilled promises on improving infrastructure and safety. Luckily just days before the games began the new subway line to help travel between venues was attained. But many other improvements have gone down hill or remain unfinished.
On top of these uncompleted projects many tourists and athletes have been worried about the ongoing problem with the Zika virus and Rio’s polluted waters. Brazil’s Zika inescapably will spread globally and the Olympics are only speeding up the process. An estimated 500,000 tourists will flock into Rio to watch the games, will potentially be affected, then return back to their own country only to start a new outbreak. Women who are pregnant or planning on getting pregnant have been advised to stay away from Zika afflicted countries. In fear of Zika many athletes have even opted out of the Olympics this year. Along with the threats of Zika imposing a global epidemic many are concerned with the excess amounts of sewage in Rio’s waters. When Rio was first given the Olympics in 2009 organizers had pledged to clean up 80 percent of overall sewage. Although this number has not been reached a new sewage facility has been installed and the water has significantly improved since 2009. But threats still loom over athletes who will be competing in water sports, alarming numbers of disease causing viruses and bacteria still prevail.
After the uphill battle in order to make Rio a safer, cleaner, and welcoming city conditions finally pulled through when the Olympic opening ceremony was held on August 5th. Nonetheless the question still remains; will the first-ever Olympics in South America go on without any entanglements or will things take a deep dive into a haphazard mess.
Poor Water Conditions to affect Olympic athletes in Rio
By Clara Liebert
The Rio Olympics have arrived. The excitement has started rising, and many sports are underway now. Medals have already been won, even as it is opening weekend of the two week long event. Everyone is ecstatic and ready for the action to come, yet fear has started rising about athletes health.
Rio De Janeiro is known for pretty beaches. They should have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but they don’t. Rio is full of contaminated water. Going as far back as 20 years ago, there has been pollution in the oceans. For the past 7 years, Rio was supposed to be working on improving the situation. They were supposed to build eight water treatment plants, that would filter and treat the water in the Brazilian rivers. Instead, they built just one water treatment plant. As well, they were supposed to be treating 80% of the water going into Guanabara Bay, yet they are only treating around half. The water is still just big waste lands, and honestly, a big human toilet. Not only does it have a lot of human sewage in it, but large pieces of garbage is floating in the water.
This is putting the outside water events, such as the sailing, rowing, and marathon swimming, at risk. The waterways around Rio, off the coast of Copacabana and Ipanema, and in Guanabara Bay the most polluted waters. With the human sewage comes a lot of bacteria and viruses. These viruses can cause a lot of illnesses. Most likely they will cause stomach and respiratory illnesses. A person would only have to take in as little as 3 teaspoons of water to make them sick. At this, athletes have been advised to have as little contact with the water as possible, and to not put their head in. This is not only to affect the athletes competing in these water events, but can become hazardous for the spectators and tourists. The copacabana beach, and Ipanema beach have just as much contamination that can make the spectators ill too. There is no way around this. The beaches are very hazardous themselves. Viruses have been discovered on Rio beaches that are 1.7 million times more hazardous than any U.S. beach. This could go on to affect even the sports such as beach volleyball, that are played in the sand.
It is not only sickness that can affect these sports in the Olympics. With the garbage that litters the waters, boats can get caught running into it. They might run into chairs, and more. This would specifically affect the different boat races.
It will not be surprising if we end up seeing athletes getting sick as the Olympics progress. Not all athletes are at quite as much risk though. People with stronger immune systems will be less likely to get sick. Some athletes have also tried to take other precautions before entering these next couple weeks. The precautions include taking antibiotics, bleaching oars, and wearing plastic suits and gloves. Yet the antibiotics are not meant to battle viruses, but just bacteria.
In the end, we can only hope for the best for the athletes. The outdoor water sports will go on, but we may see them competed a little differently. The athletes, will use the precautions of their choice. And the Olympics will continue.
Gentrification Takes the Gold in Rio
By: Lauren Woodhouse-Laskonis
The Olympic Games have always been a symbol of prestige and accomplishment in the world of sports, for athletes and journalists alike. Most of us enjoy them absentmindedly every four years as we cheer on our country’s team. They are meant to encourage people to get active, help the poor, and produce massive economic benefits. But for the communities hosting, it’s a much harsher reality that hurts them for long after the athletes have left.
Already, Rio is showing signs of growing gentrification but this comes as no surprise looking back on past cities the games has visited. For example, the 1996 Olympics held in Atlanta, Georgia. Even before the games were set to take place in Atlanta, it was one of the most segregated towns in the United States. And to make matters worse, the Olympics coming to their city gave rich, white housing developers further excuse to begin a campaign of ethnic cleansing. They evicted over 30,000 families, largely african-american households, by demolishing huge housing projects. The bigotry was only further displayed when police were given pre-printed arrest citations saying “African-American, Male, Homeless.” So all the police had to do was fill out the name, the reason the citizen was charged, and the date. Some victims that were arrested were left in jail without seeing trial until the games were over and some families were harassed and intimidated until they left town. So by the time all of the athletes got to Atlanta, the area was mainly upper middle class white families.
Drawing parallels, we can already see some of what happened in Atlanta- happening to Rio De Janeiro. Forced evictions have already been under way since 2009. Multiple families have reported city officials contacting them to come to city hall (an hour’s bus ride away.) Then after informing them their homes have been condemned, tearing them down with all their personal belongings inside before they’ve even made the bus ride back. Other report being forced to pack up and move out the day they were evicted.
Maria da Penha, a resident of Vila Autodromo a neighborhood adjacent to the new Olympic park, said in a documentary for Vox: “Even though I mentally prepared, and I figured my house would be demolished soon, for me, that was the worst part of this whole process.”
Not only that but Olympic construction runoff have been polluting surrounding lakes destroying Rio’s fishing trade, a major economic contributor, leaving many fishermen and women out of work.
“I fish to be able to survive…… [If they were to] put me in a place far from the water..” Another resident of Vila Autodromo, Paolo Roberto Ferreira Mezes, stops unable to finish his sentence while overcome by emotion in an interview with Sophie Snowden of rioonwatch.org.
Communities in Rio have made coalitions to reject the gentrification they’re facing but the city still continues to harass citizen who choose to stay, using police brutality (pepper spraying, beatings) and intimidating peaceful protesters.
This begs the question: Is there a better solution than displacement and gentrification for a world event? Yes. Various better solutions can be reached by first acknowledging housing security is a right for all people no matter where they live. Then, the Olympics have to show they are willing to change so they don’t destroy any more communities. Whether that be keeping the Olympics in one location or forming an anti-gentrification committee that sets and regulates guidelines to protect citizens of the next host city that include residents of the town. There are various ways the IOC (International Olympic Committee) can go about hosting the Olympics that do not hurt vibrant communities, they just have to be willing to put an effort into changing.
By Iman Pearce
As this season’s Summer Olympics is creeping up it is almost impossible to have a discussion about the games without mention of the Russian doping scandal. In May of this year, it was unveiled that Russia had been leading a state-run doping program. According to national news, many of the country’s athletes participated in using performance enhancing drugs, benefiting greatly from the medals, Olympic and otherwise. The New York Times calls it “one of the most elaborate — and successful — doping ploys in sports history.”
Though the use of performance enhancing drugs is illegal, many famous athletes such as Floyd Landis, a professional cyclist, Mark McGwire, a household name thanks to his home run record and Michael Phelps and olympic gold medalist. Even still, the extravagance of the fact that this doping program is state lead is very impressive. No other country has attempted to lead a program like this.
Something that is almost more surprising than the doping itself is the destruction of evidence. Over 1,000 crucial test samples at the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory were intentional demolished. According to the lab worker ,agents of the federal security service were seen multiple times impersonating engineers, while recording or taking audio of the lab. Doping control officers were threatened and intimidated during the few times where they refused to tamper with results.
Although this scandal is news to most of the American general public, doping is something that has been going on in Russia for decades. It seems to have started in the 1950’s when the Soviet Union was in charge. Although this time period in Russia is somewhat murky author, Thomas Hunt, says “We can sort of get hints around the edges of it, but it’s hard to get really direct evidence, outside of interviewing former Soviet people who were involved in the building program.”
It is now a well known fact that Russia will not be participating in this year’s Olympic games, that decision is not due to the action of the IOC. IOC president Thomas Bach told the public that removing Russia from the games due to illegal doping “would not be justifiable.”Many journalist websites have been questioning and criticizing the IOC and how well they handled the issue, calling them inconsistent, and failures in exercising their authority.
By Caroline Cook
The Zika virus has raised many concerns regarding the athletes and spectators of this year’s 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro but what is the truth, what should you believe and what should you do if you are planning on going to the Olympics?
The Zika virus can be transmitted through the bite of an Aedes species mosquito, from an infected pregnant mother to her fetus, from an infected man to his sexuall partner, and through blood transfusions. This virus can cause fevers, rashes, joint pain, red eyes, muscle pain and headaches. Zika has also been linked to causing microcephaly, a birth defect in babies where their heads are smaller than expected and their brains are underdeveloped.
The outbreak started in Brazil of early 2015 and quickly spread to North and South America and the Pacific Islands. Researchers have reason to believe that the virus had been brought to Brazil by an infected French travel, who had been bitten by a mosquito, therefore transmitting the virus to others.
Based on recent findings from the Rio health officials, they believe that the virus is not an issue. Rio’s health secretary, Daniel Soranz says “Zika should not deter people from coming to the games” this is because cases of the virus has dropped greatly in the past months, as the number of cases in the weeks leading up to the games has been almost non-existent. Not only has the number victims to this disease fallen but the amount of mosquitos has also diminished. Mosquitos being cold blooded insects hibernate for the winter and since it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere there are rarely any mosquitos in Brazil to transmit the disease.
Although the virus would be rare to show up at the games there is always a chance for it to appear. For this reason many Olympians have decided to drop out of the 2016 games in Rio this year. Golfers Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace, Marc Leishman, cyclist Tejay van Garderen and a handful of other athletes have stated that Zika is the reason they will be skipping the games.
If you happened to be traveling to the Olympic Games this year take these precautions to keep yourself and others safe from the virus. If you are pregnant do not travel to areas affected by Zika and if you are not, plan for you travel. Check travel notices and figure out if the virus has taken over your place of travel. Prevent mosquito bites by using repellant with active ingredients and by treating your clothes with permethrin. Also protecting yourself during sexual activity can keep you safe from receiving the virus.
Zika can be a very dangerous disease for people that contract it, especially pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant. Although the city hosting the 2016 Olympics has had many cases of the disease in the past years the chances of catching it at the games should be low if you take the necessary precautions
By Caroline Diamond
The Zika Virus isn’t the only health concern for athletes: as swimmers, rowers, and sailors arrive in Rio for the Summer 2016 Olympics, they quickly find themselves awash in the heavily polluted South Atlantic Sea.
In preparation for the Olympic Games, the Brazilian government promised to clean, and then continue to manage its dirty oceans and lagoons. However, locals explained that Olympic and Brazilian officials supposed efforts to block sewage and trash from reaching the ocean was superficial.
In the midst of financial crisis, and the Zika Virus, water pollution, a long term problem for South America, was not a focus for Olympic Organizers in Brazil. And if it were, lack of funding would quickly terminate the attempt to clean the waters, anyway. This creates a menagerie of issues for the 1,400 incoming water athletes, along with the abundance of spectators that will also be negatively affected and exposed to virus filled pollution.
Three bodies of water will hold the Olympic competitions, first being Guanabara Bay, in which sailing will commence. From villages and neighborhoods above, the trash infested bay experiences a constant, free flow of raw sewage. Although past activists demanded better sanitation, the Brazilian government never began treating their sewage, causing a major outpour into the oceans.
Canoeing and Rowing will be held at Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, a body of water that The Associated Press recently contracted a water quality study in. They found that the lagoon is teeming with viruses that carry the potential to generate intestinal and respiratory diseases.
Lastly, open water swimmers will compete off of the famous Copacabana Beach, where the water is tested, treated and cleared for swimming. However, it was found in the same study commissioned by the Associated Press that the sand of Copacabana Beach contains high levels of adenovirus, creating a hazard for tourists and spectators, as they watch competitions beachside.
Meghan O’Leary, a member of the U.S. rowing team, told the Los Angeles Times, “[The water quality] is a real concern. We’re going to have to be very disciplined about how we’re taking care of ourselves,” she explained, “Don’t touch our face if we touch the water. Covering our water bottles with plastic bags. We get splashed a lot. I sit in bow. It’s going to happen. We’re just going to try to control everything we can.”
Many doctors and biologists have concluded that athletes should keep their head above water at all times, in the event that this isn’t possible, participants are opting for other forms of protection. Taking antibiotics to strengthen immune systems was popular among some athletes, while others plan to wear anti-pollution microbial suits, the rest will try their best not to swallow any water throughout the 16 days of the 2016 polluted Olympics.
By Sydney Wallis
Zika Virus in Rio
With the 2016 Olympic Games right around the corner, it’s safe to say that people are getting anxious. The host city this year, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is known for its appealing tourist attractions and delicious food choices. However, Rio is not only home to beautiful landscapes and bright, sunny skies; it is also the heart of a fairly recent outbreak of the Zika virus.
The Zika virus is a traditionally mosquito-transmitted disease that was first discovered in Africa back in 1947. The virus can cause a multitude of symptoms such as fever, headache, skin rash, and/or vomiting. Women who are pregnant and become infected with the Zika virus can pass the virus to their children; the child or children of an infected woman are commonly born with a birth defect–the most common being infant microcephaly.
Infant microcephaly is a condition in which a baby is born with a head much smaller than what is normal for most infants. This occurs because the baby’s brain has not fully developed, or stopped developing at some point during the pregnancy. Some infants who develop the condition can have other problems pertaining to the defect such as: seizures, hearing loss, vision problems, and other developmental delays in the brain.
The fear of the Zika virus was stirred up again in August of 2014, when Brazilian physicians were studying cases of several individuals who were showing symptoms of an infection. It was later confirmed as the Zika virus.
The disease had been seen in a handful of other countries before this, but no outbreak was as severe as the one that continued to grow in Brazil and beyond. Some researchers had a hunch that the disease was carried to the country during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but that can neither be confirmed nor denied. The Zika virus has slowly continued its spread, reaching new countries, and even parts of the United States.
In the most recent US case, it has been reported that out of 2,300 people tested in northern Florida for the Zika virus, nearly 400 of them were infected. This is the first report of the disease being transmitted directly through mosquitoes in the US. Other cases include transmission of the infection through sexual intercourse, or from a mother to her child.
So what does this mean for the 2016 Olympics that just happen to be occurring in the middle of the Zika outbreak? Sadly, it means that some of the scheduled competitors have opted out of attending the Games this year, in fear of the virus. Most of those who have dropped out of the games this year formally disclosed they will be skipping due to the Zika virus.
Brazilian health and government officials were worried about the effect the disease would have on the Olympics’ attendance. Some individuals took to social media to express their concerns about the disease being so prominent around the same time as the Olympic Games, and even went as far as to bash the Brazilian government.
With many people on edge about the Zika virus, it’s clear to see why officials struggled to find ways to contain the outbreak. Not only were they concerned with attendance, but the safety of their citizens and those who would be visiting.
Luckily for those officials, however, the recent drier weather and cooler temperatures in Rio have caused a serious drop in reported Zika infections. So far, none of the Olympic athletes who have dropped out of the games have announced any plans to make it out to compete after the news. Health officials in Brazil have announced these low numbers of infections with one last push to encourage those who were skeptical about attending the Olympics to go and enjoy the games.
The Zika virus, although rarely fatal, is a serious disease that is still continuing to gain visibility in the media. Despite this, the amazing athletes who have trained their hardest still seem to be as ready as ever to play their best, and make for an outstanding game.
Rio 2016: Should there be basic requirements a city must meet to host the Olympics?
By Adelina Bajrami
Once again, Brazil finds itself hosting another major world tournament, this occasion at the heart of it’s most recognized city, Rio de Janeiro. While this is the first time the Summer Olympics has ever been held in South America, there has been great backlash not just from the people who reside in Brazil, but also from those around the world. And it’s not difficult to understand why. With high crime rates, questionable transportation, political and economic turmoil, dangerous levels of water pollution, and a Zika outbreak, many have conjured up this question: Why Rio? The location has evoked such strong feelings of uncertainty that some athletes even began withdrawing from the games entirely. So again, why Rio?
Answering the question proves to be a challenge when you observe the current situation in Brazil. Just the state of the water should have been an automatic disqualifier for the city. In fact, the water is in such a dangerous, revolting state that Jenny Barchfield from The Independent notes swimmers would only need to ingest about three tablespoons of water to be at risk of contracting a virus. Because of severe water contamination, athletes have resorted to exercising precautions like taking antibiotics or preparing full body suits for their protection. Such a large amount of human sewage and disease lies in these waters that anybody can be infected. Not to mention, Brazil has been suffering an outbreak of the Zika virus for which there is no cure, leaving people in a panic of wondering if travelers will spread the virus even farther after returning to their native homes.
My question is should a city meet a basic set of requirements before being chosen to host the games? If the city does not meet expectations, then they should no longer be on the list of potential hosts. The most important factor needing consideration is safety; that should immediately come before anything else. If a mass of people will be traveling over to the host location to attend the Olympics, the Committee needs to ensure the water quality reaches a safe enough grade, the transportation is of sufficient quality, and the country is generally politically sound enough (to the point where nobody is protesting and rioting left and right). Of course there are many other concerns and factors to be considered, for example availability of venues for the different events or lodging options for travellers. I’m not sure what exactly was going through the Committee’s head at the time of its decision, but it’s clear it only decided to address the problems facing the games after Rio was chosen. And even then the Committee didn’t act as if it was in the least concerned.
It should be specified that there already is an evaluation system in place to assess a city’s potential. And it should also be stated that the decision to host the Olympics in Rio was made back in 2009. What I propose is the Committee, before looking at price tags and what not, needs to prioritize the safety of its athletes and travelers; therefore it needs to re-evaluate its evaluation system in order to avoid future predicaments. Maybe the IOC should try making a decision closer to the actual Olympics date instead of seven years before the event.
Photo Credit: carlbob