Friday, March 24, 2023

Who Would Bet on a Future Olympics?

We didn’t suspect it at the time, but the 2016 Rio Olympics may have been the last ever summer games. There were clues. Until 2015, most of us hadn’t even heard of the Zika virus. First identified in 1947, it is transmitted by mosquitoes, typically causing asymptomatic or mild infection but also associated with microcephaly in babies born to mothers infected during pregnancy. Before the games, the state of Rio de Janeiro recorded 26,000 cases of Zika, giving rise to understandable fear among organizers, competitors and fans. With the Brazilian government throwing millions at reinforcing health networks, the tournament went ahead, welcoming over 11,000 athletes from 207 countries, alongside some 500,000 foreign visitors. It was only a portent of a more momentous and widespread virus that would send the entire world into convulsions and threaten the very existence of the Olympics.

It’s entirely possible that Tokyo will not stage the postponed 2020 Olympics this summer and, even if it does, it will be a much humbler affair than we’ve come to expect from recent games. Paris is scheduled to host the tournament in 2024 and will surely be concerned about the prospect. Four years after that, in 2028, Los Angeles is due to play host. By then, COVID-19 may be a nightmarish but distant memory. But it could also be a ubiquitous presence that affects practically every aspect of our lives and impels us to rethink what we’ve taken for granted over the past 400 years.

The NBA Is Conflicted Over National Symbols

Thanks to a pandemic, the first full season of professional basketball in the US opened in arenas empty of spectators. For the players and staff present, the ritual of playing the national anthem before every game began to appear even more artificial and hyperreal than usual. Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, saw this as an opportunity to remove the anthem from the program, as a gesture of tolerance and solidarity. Cuban commented: “The hope is that those who feel passionate about the anthem being played will be just as passionate in listening to those who do not feel it represents them.”

Super Bowl Fans Tackle Poetry

On January 20, a star was born in Washington, DC, during the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States — a 78-year-old white man taking over from a 74-year-old sore loser. Before the swearing-in, an unknown 22-year-old black female strode up to the podium. She embodied the Democratic Party’s commitment to identity politics. With her expressive voice, she recited a rap-influenced poem celebrating the new dawn that would emerge after the nation’s weathering of hurricane Donald. (“Dawn” and “weathered” followed by “belly of the beast” and the metaphor of wading a sea were among the stale images that appeared in the early lines of the poem).

The New Generation of Arab Photographers

Discerning eyes have known for quite a while that the Arab world is more than it appears in conventional photography. The old visual language of minarets and souks, of unassuming eyes set deep in dark faces, of conceptual or actual “unveilings” and of non-consensual or ambivalent colonial portraiture is one of yesterday.