Donald Trump’s contribution to democracy.

Donald Trump may have established a dangerous precedent for modern democracy. He may have demonstrated that the more damage a leader does to a nation the more chance they have of being re-elected.

Trump lost the 2021 election to Joe Biden and the Democrats in the United States, but plans to run again in 2024 and could realistically win the next election simply because he inflicted so much damage on the nation while in office that no leader or party could fix it in just one term.

Americans expect Biden to fix many of Trump’s problems, and if he doesn’t, they may turn again to Trump.

Strategy or coincidence?

Was this Trump’s strategy from the beginning of his presidency? Did he and his advisors plan this as soon as he moved into the White House? It’s hard to imagine they did. It’s hard to imagine Trump had any plan apart from exploiting hatred and bigotry to maintain his power and protect the interests of his businesses and his allies.

It’s difficult to imagine Trump planned this failure because his reign was marked entirely by neglect; the neglect which created the myriad problems which Biden and his team must solve.

Mission impossible

Joe Biden cannot repair all of the damage Trump created. There is simply not enough time in one presidential term, especially since the underlying cause was the deliberate division Trump weaponised in his campaign and his presidency. Trump utilised existing social polarisation fomented through social media and the Murdoch press to protect his power, and entrenched this polarisation in American society. That division might be a hallmark of US society forever.

Another primary feature of Trump’s reign was publicity. He utilised the Murdoch press, or Murdoch utilised him, to advance an agenda and to win support from the ignorant gullible and impressionable masses. When Biden nears the end of his term and hasn’t fixed all of the problems Trump created, Murdoch need only repeat the same tactics to mobilise a disgruntled sector of the population to turn against Biden and vote for Trump.

The irony

Ironically, many Trump supporters suffered under Trump. They ‘voted against their best interests’ as political experts like to call it. For example, many Trump supporters are lower middle – lower class workers, who forgot, or ignored, the fact that Trump and his allies are employers and leaders of corporations who stripped workers of their rights between 2017 and 2021.

During the 2024 election campaign, Murdoch will no doubt harness this anger and direct it towards Biden in order to convince workers that they should once again vote for Trump.

Biden and his team will improve some aspects of life in the United States, because it’s impossible to get any worse, but it’s also impossible to fix all of the problems Trump created.

A dangerous precedent

Trump’s reign was closely watched throughout the world. The United States is a world superpower after all. What did world leaders, political parties and potential world leaders learn?

Did they learn that damaging a country, while protecting the interests of the leader, the party and their donors, renders the opposition’s task so difficult that the opposition is bound to fail? Once the opposition has failed, Trump’s imitators can take back power.

World leaders may never have considered this as a deliberate tactic, but Trump has shown them that it could be successful.

Trump Lite

Australia has suffered a similar fate. Recently deposed prime minister, Scott Morrison, was also known as Trump Lite and is widely regarded as the worst prime minister in the history of Australia – he was even widely despised by members of his own party.

Morrison did enormous damage to Australia. His four-year reign saw enormous damage inflicted upon areas such as the natural environment, education, Indigenous rights, women’s rights, disability services, health, aged-care services and many more.

Newly elected prime minister, Anthony Albanese of the Labor Party, has an enormous task to repair the damage Morrison and his colleagues created while in office. Many Australians, like their US counterparts, breathed a collective sigh of relief when the new party won office, but they also expect real change.

Australians expect to see improved policies and actions to fight climate change, and to lower the rising cost of living, return integrity to politics and to fix the enormous problems in education, aged-care, disability services, Indigenous communities and many other areas. The danger for Albanese and his party is that they may not have enough time to solve enough problems to win the trust of the Australian public. Remember, also, that voting is compulsory in Australia so many people must be kept happy in order for a politician or party to stay in office.

The dangerous precedent Trump set, and which people like Morrison copied, could create nations so damaged that no opposition party can sufficiently repair the damage before the next election.

Image: http://www.washingtonpost.com

Emily Watts is hungry for more success.

Emily Watts is chasing domestic and international success in 2022 after claiming the biggest win of her young career in January.

Emily won stage 1 of the Tour Down Under to start the year and also claimed the white jersey as best young rider. This followed bronze medals in the U23 Road Race and ITT at the national titles, and proves that she if fulfilling her undeniable potential.

Success at TDU preceded a block of training with the Podium Potential Academy in Adelaide on the track and the road, before reuniting with Knights of Suburbia teammates at the Tour of Gippsland.

Emily has won medals on the track at national level, but sees her future on the road and has mapped out a three-year-plan accordingly. Now that she has beaten some World Tour riders, she wants to join them.

“By 2025, I’d like to be riding for a World Tour team,” she said, while confirming that success at the World Championships and Olympic Games is the ultimate goal. The first step is to perform well on the National Road Series before heading overseas for the remainder of 2022.

“Winning the GC at the Tour of Tasmania is a major goal. I’m looking to learn as much as I can over the four days of the race, and combine this with what I learned at the TDU this year.”

One lesson was managing the added responsibility as road captain on stage 1 of the TDU.

“Normally I get pretty stressed before a stage, but this time I had to stay calm for the sake of the team and relax into the race.”

It clearly worked, as the KOS team planned their attack perfectly and launched Emily to the biggest win of her career in the bunch sprint, a result which surprised many, including Emily herself.

“I’m not a pure sprinter, I normally sprint well under load, but being an uphill sprint worked to my advantage over the pure sprinters. The win improved my confidence in sprinting, but If I did decide to become more of a pure sprinter, I’d have to change my training.”

The same is true of her climbing. She regards herself as a proponent of short, sharp, punchy climbs, and for that reason has her sights set on GC results in the long term.

Upon completion of the 2022 Australian racing season, Emily plans to travel to the United States to chase races, prize money and increased exposure in Criteriums and road races. If this objective is achieved, she will then head to Belgium in future years and into the heartland of international cycling.

“In Belgium there are races almost every day, plus a very high standard of racing and the chance to be noticed by some world tour teams.”

“I’d like to ride for Canyon Sram or Trek Segafredo, because they seem to have the same values that I have. Each individual rider in the team is supported and they look like they enjoy being in the peloton, and it’s important for me to ride for a team with the right atmosphere. This is what I feel riding for the Knights of Suburbia team as well.”

Despite planning to base herself in Belgium, Emily does not anticipate a career in Cyclocross.

“Cyclocross requires some pretty good bike handling skills and coordination. I don’t have very good hand-eye coordination, so maybe I shouldn’t ride Cyclocross,” she laughs, while also ruling out a career in AFLW:

“I’m studying a Bachelor of Education, PE Teaching, at Sydney Uni, and on a teaching practicum recently I had to teach the kids how to kick an AFL ball and, well, when I finally managed to kick it the kids all clapped and cheered.”

21-year-old Emily may have planned her career trajectory perfectly as the sport of women’s cycling continues to grow.

“By 2025, there might be more races for women,” she predicts.

“We already have the Giro d’Italia Donne and the women’s Paris Roubaix. I handled the gravel sections of some of the Aussie road races well, so who knows. This could mean more opportunities for female cyclists in general.”

Racing the Giro or the Hell of the North is a long way from the tiny town of Hartley on the edge of the NSW Blue Mountains where Emily grew up on the family property.

While a country childhood denied her the chance to train with a local squad on a daily basis, riding alone day after day helped to forge the self-discipline and mental strength that are vital to road cycling success. She is now a national U23 champion in the Individual Time Trial.

“I would get up at 5.30am to get in some training before going to school in Bathurst, and sometimes I’d leave my bike at the Principal’s house and then ride home to Hartley. I don’t remember exactly how long it would take, but I think it was about 60 – 70 km.”

“Plus, riding to places like the Jenolan Caves was enjoyable, and riding on the road to Oberon was hilly, so that developed my climbing skills.”

There was one ride, however, on which her father and younger sister would join her.

“To the Lolly Bug shop, because we could buy lollies halfway.”

Images: Getty Images

Nancie Akinyi wins the inaugural Migration Gravel Race.

Nancie Akinyi of Kenya has won the inaugural Migration Gravel Race in Kenya in a time of 30:41:33 ahead of Betsy Welch of The USA and Dorien Geertsema of the Netherlands. Welch finished in 30:49:58 and Geertsema recorded a total time of 33:32:24.

Akinyi won three of the four stages on her way to victory but still had a considerable gap to close entering the final day. She trailed Welch by 20 minutes after Welch had won the brutal first stage and established a lead of more than 40 minutes.

Akinyi won the Queen’s stage with an impressive display of climbing to conquer the 3000m of elevation, then took further time away from the American with another powerful ride on the short and fast stage 3.

Akinyi and Welch were both lost throughout the race. Akinyi strayed off course on day 1 and 2, and lost time navigating her way back onto the trail. Welch was lost inside her own mind, asking publicly if she cared or didn’t care about winning, and whether or not she is competitive. She can be certain of the silver medal she takes home from Kenya.

The final stage would decide the overall winner in the women’s category. Welch enjoyed a 20 minute lead over the Kenyan, and Akinyi charged through the 160km stage with determination. She didn’t stop at the first feed station, and slowly chipped away at the time gap. Behind her, Welch was suffering with a chain that kept slipping off. Akinyi eventually won the stage by almost 30 minutes, and grabbed the gold medal.

Behind the two leaders, Geertsema and companion Mieke Luten rode together and supported each other throughout the first two stages. At the end of stage 3 and 4, however, Geertsema found more strength in her legs and rode away from her compatriot to claim the final position on the podium, while Luten finished 4th in 34:59:37.

Betsy Welch creates history in Kenya.

Betsy Welch of the USA has become the first woman to win a stage of the Migration Gravel Race after taking stage 1 ahead of Nancy Akinyi of Kenya and Mieke Luten of the Netherlands. Welch finished the 146km stage a full 30 minutes ahead of Akinyi and has established herself as one of the favourites to win the 4-stage race.

A small group of the strongest women rode together in the early stages, passing through local villages of the Maasai Mara region over rocky terrain. The rough gravel surfaces caused punctures and mechanical issues, as well as falls and injuries, for a large number of the 61 riders, and so challenging were the conditions that some riders even found themselves a long way off the official course, riding random dirt paths beside Africa’s famous wildlife.

Akinyi rode alone for long sections of the race, while Luten teamed up with Dorien Geertsema for most of the stage before pulling away from her compatriot in the final few kilometres. Nairobi resident April Kelley secured 5th position while Nicola Greene rode home in 6th.

Welch handled the conditions better than any of her competitors, and when the race entered the final 50km stretch, she fought through the strong headwind to open up a significant gap on her rivals and make a statement heading into stage 2.

Welch will take her form and confidence into the Queen’s stage, which covers 160km and a total of 3200m of climbing.

Three superpowers in three weeks.

The Australian government has managed to upset three superpowers in the space of three weeks. Comments from the prime minister and senior minsters or staff have provoked negative responses from China, India and the United States, and the results could be very harmful to Australia.

China.

The threat of war. Senior government figures provoked China with comments about imminent armed conflict. Former Liberal minister Christopher Pyne, Senator Jim Molan, Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo, and even Defence Minister Peter Dutton made comments suggesting Australia is already, or will soon be, engaged in some form of direct conflict with China. In contrast, an article by Ewen Levick appeared in Australian Defence Magazine in March this year entitled:

War with China is not inevitable.

Average Aussies don’t know who to believe. They also might not understand the true motivation behind the comments, but China does, and Australia’s largest trading partner has already responded the best way it knows how – economically.

India

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australian citizens attempting to return to Australia from the COVID-19 hotspot of India could be issued massive fines or sent to jail. Many Australian citizens were born in India, have family in India and hold dual citizenship between the two countries. Australian citizens have access to Australia’s health system, and could be treated in Australia after completing mandatory quarantine, but they are being forced to remain in a country in the middle of a crisis, and are placing more pressure on India’s overburdened health system. This has not just angered Aussies in India and back home, but upset the government of India, which is battling to bring the crisis under control.

The United States

The Australian government set itself at odds with The USA when it refused to follow plans to reduce carbon emissions and protect the natural environment. New US president Joe Biden has publicly stated an ambition to actively reduce carbon emissions in the US in the near future, but Australia has refused to match these efforts. One specific policy which will harm Australia is the carbon tariff. The tariff, or fee, will be imposed on any goods being imported into the United States which have not been produced using more environmentally-friendly methods. Goods that are produced using fossil fuels will thus be worth less, and those businesses will lose money. The European Union is proposing a similar plan.

Ironically, this will adversely affect traditional Coalition voters, whose businesses will suffer due to the tariffs. Australia, rightly or wrongly, has a very close relationships with the United States, and cannot afford to alienate the superpower.

Upsetting other nations is inevitable in international diplomacy. Upsetting other nations is also justified if those nations are acting in a way that clearly contravenes the interests or the accepted values of the nation making the comments. China, for example, needs to be called out for its actions in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang. In this case, however, the comments are calculated, but careless, and are deliberately designed to appease specific sectors of the Australian population.

China. Anti-China comments appeal to the racists. Australia is a racist country, and anti-Chinese racism has existed since the gold rush in the 1860s. The Liberal National Party coalition taps into this anti-China sentiment because it is dependant on the votes of the country’s racist underbelly. Warning Australians of the threat of war is also a convenient way to justify enormous spending on defence, and observant commentators noticed that the comments were made close to ANZAC Day, which commemorates fallen Aussie soldiers and is the nation’s most sacred day. Ironically, however, the public comments about China have adversely affected trade with China and this severely disadvantages Australian producers of beef, wheat and wine, who would normally vote for the Coalition.

The USA. The prime minister rejected the US proposal in order to appease the fossil fuel industry. Australians are now cognisant that the fossil fuel industry owns the Coalition.

India. Racism, or damage control? Threatening to imprison Australian citizens returning from an Asian country is clearly racist, but the proposal could also be an attempt to save face. COVID-19 quarantine is ultimately a federal government responsibility in Australia, and it has been handled very poorly. The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been even worse. Many Australians are staring to see through the government’s COVID-19 publicity stunts, so the threat to fine or imprison citizens could be an attempt to appear tough and decisive on border control and biosecurity.

Some of the Australians trapped in India have no Indian heritage. They are cricketers, chasing big money in the lucrative Indian cricket competition. A few of the cricketers have criticised the government’s stance. Will the words of some Aussie sports heroes be enough to the change the government’s stance?

For a government that is nothing but publicity, photo opportunities and marketing, this is a massive public relations faux pas. Will it persuade Australians to stop voting for the Coalition at upcoming elections?

Image: Aditya Joshi

Which is your favourite national anthem?

National anthems stir emotions in us all. They evoke national pride and a sense of belonging. They can inspire international athletes, and persuade patriots to lay down their lives. Anthems can make grown men cry and create incomparable life-long memories.

So which is your favourite anthem? Is it the anthem of your nation of birth, or the nation you now call home? Does your country have an anthem, and what does it mean to you? Perhaps your favourite anthem belongs to a foreign country.

I have heard a number of national anthems during my travels and I’ve listed the songs which created the strongest impression on me.

Multilingual anthems

I like multilingual anthems. I like the interchange between the languages and the recognition of the multicultural composition of the country. Multilingual anthems acknowledge the indigenous inhabitants of the country and attempt to unite every citizen, at least symbolically.

South Africa – Nkosi Sikelel iAfrica

Nkosi Sikelel iAfrica translates as God Bless Africa. The anthem features Zulu, which is the most commonly spoken language in South Africa, as well as Xhosa, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English. The anthem moves seamlessly from one language to another and encompasses the contrasting cultures which make up the rainbow nation, which actually has 11 official languages.

New Zealand – God Defend New Zealand

God Defend New Zealand is another bilingual anthem, which is sung in English and Maori. Now, as an Australian, I’m not supposed to like the New Zealand anthem, nor their Rugby Union team, nor their cricket team. I’m also not supposed to admit that anything from Aotearoa is better than anything in Australia, but NZ gave women the vote before Australia, signed a treaty with their indigenous population, and gave us Sir Edmund Hillary, the All Blacks…

A national song featuring Maori lyrics is also a perfect precursor to the Haka, performed by many New Zealand sporting teams. Needless to say, I enjoy watching rubgy games between the Springboks and the All Blacks.

Ireland – Ireland’s Call – Amhran na bhFiann

Ireland does not have a bilingual anthem, it has two. Amhran na bhFiann is the official anthem, with Irish Gaelic lyrics, while Ireland’s Call is sung for the Irish Rugby Union team, because the team is comprised of players from the Republic of Ireland and from Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Ireland’s Call is said to promote a greater sense of unity.

Scandal

Spain – La Marcha Real

The Spanish national anthem, La Marcha Real, sparked a social media meltdown during the FIFA World Cup in 2018. The Spanish players did not sing to their anthem before their first game against Portugal, and people blasted them for being unpatriotic, pampered, unworthy and disloyal, and demanded the entire team be dropped before the next game. People unleashed their own fury on La Furia Roja until one informed user explained;

The Spanish national anthem has no words.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and San Marino also have no words to their anthems.

Sport, religion and war

A pattern exists in national anthems. Most of them reference war and religion, and they provide an effective backdrop to sporting contests. Most anthems pay tribute to the country’s most prominent deity, and encourage loyal citizens to give their heart, their soul or their lives for their country. Anthems of colonised peoples honour battles against oppression, and anthems of the colonisers praise the might of the nation, normally referred to as the Fatherland.

Was any national anthem written by a woman?

Sporting competitions are obviously the most visible expressions of nationalism, and anthems are central to that expression.

Australia – Advance Australia Fair

You’ve already realised that I’m not very patriotic; after all, I extolled the virtues of New Zealand. And no, I don’t love my own anthem. The tune is boring and uninspiring, and the words are equally tepid, as well as being problematic.

I’m not the only Aussie who doesn’t love their anthem. In fact, custom dictates that any Australian who knows all the words to the anthem is UnAustralian. Anyone who sings with their hand on heir heart is pretentious and trying to be American. The phrase ‘girt by sea’ confuses most citizens and even the most patriotic locals sing ‘let us ring Joyce’ instead of ‘let us rejoice’. No one knows who Joyce is and why we should call her – maybe she knows what girt means.

Advance Australia Fair is problematic. The opening lyrics tell us that ‘we are young and free’. Calling Australia young ignores the indigenous history of the country. Aboriginal Australians are the world’s oldest living civilisation, having occupied this land for about 60,000 years. Calling Australia young recognises only the history of the country since colonisation in the late 1700s – i.e. White Australia.

Using the word ‘free’ also ignores Australian history, and the fact that Aboriginal people were enslaved (yes, slavery existed in Australia) were stolen from their families, were denied the right to vote and were not even counted as people until 1967. For these reasons, and the ongoing disparity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, many indigenous people disapprove of the anthem, and many indigenous athletes refuse to sing it while representing their country.

Many Australians find little inspiration in Advance Australia Fair, and often look to pop songs for patriotic stimulus. I am Australian by The Seekers is a popular substitute.

I’m also not a fan of God Save the Queen, because England is ‘The Old Enemy’, and because I despise royalty. I also dislike the Star Spangled Banner because the only thing worse than losing to England is losing to The United States of America, and because the anthem usually accompanies chants of “USA!!, USA!!…” I found the national anthem of Brunei so uninspiring that after three years of living and teaching in the ‘Abode of Peace’, I don’t remember a single word.

Cyprus

I’ve never heard the national anthem of Cyprus, but not because I’ve never been there. Cyprus has no official national anthem.

Mexico – Himno Nacional Mexicano

Invoking war and warriors is a common theme in anthems, and this is true of Himno Nacional Mexicano. The stirring tune begins with:

“Mexicanos al grito de guerra…” which translates as “Mexicans to the cry of war”. It ends with “un soldado en cada hijo te dio,”, a promise that every son or daughter is a soldier for Mexico. It is one of the more passionate anthems, expect when mumbled by a bunch of teenagers at 7am on a Monday morning.

A legend also accompanies the creation of the hymn. According to historical accounts, Francisco Gonzalez Bocanegra wrote the lyrics after being locked in a room. His girlfriend encouraged him to enter the competition to devise the lyrics and when he refused, she locked him in a room full of patriotic images and only released him once he slid the ten-verse piece under the door.

France – La Marseillaise

I nominate La Marseillaise as my favourite national anthem. I know I’m not alone in this choice. I’m not French, I wouldn’t call myself a Francophile and I don’t speak French, but I was moved most by this national anthem.

I experienced a rousing rendition of the anthem on two occasions at the Stade de France in Paris in 2003. After Eunice Barber won the long jump, and her compatriots won the Women’s 4 x 100m relay at the World Championships in Athletics, I witnessed a stadium full of French patriots belting out their anthem with unbridled passion and raw emotion. I felt goose bumps and the hairs stood on my neck. It was so moving that I stopped working. Most reporters at international Athletics competitions don’t stop working during medal presentations because they’re too busy. When the French filled the stadium with their patriotic fervour, however, we all savoured the sound of thousands of patriots singing one of the world’s most inspirational anthems.

Image: Anders Kelto

It’s Australia, so speak English.

You’ve heard this phrase before. You might even agree with it. But before you admonish someone in Australia for speaking a language other than English, consider this – English is not the official language of Australia.

That’s right. Australia has no official language, despite the fact that English has been the language of government, education and communication in the country since colonisation about 250 years ago.

This might surprise a lot of people – including Australians. It might also disappoint a lot of Australians, especially the bigots. Intolerant Australians love to remind migrants, international students, tourists and anyone else speaking a language other than English that everyone must speak English – or leave.

These people launch into verbal, or even physical, attacks on public transport when they overhear someone speaking a language other than English. They flood social media and internet forums with posts demanding the use of English to the exclusion of any other language. They even get elected to parliament. They forget, however, that they themselves have failed to master the Queen’s English.

We could remind them that English is only the lingua franca – but lingua franca is a ‘foreign’ phrase. We could remind them that English is the de facto language, but de facto is also a ‘foreign’ phrase.

Please explain…

We could explain why English is not the official language. In most part because one of the 200 or so indigenous languages would also have to be installed as an official language, and that is far too many to choose from. Aussie racists wouldn’t stand for an Aboriginal language being an official language, because their racism is directed most vehemently at Aboriginal people.

Ironically, English is also not the official language of the United Kingdom, which includes England. Thus, English is not the official language in the land of its birth. It does not hold this status because Welsh is the official language of Wales, which is part of the UK. How would Brits feel about Welsh being installed as the official language of the UK?

Furthermore, English is not the official language of the United States. If one country does bigotry well, it’s the US of A. They elected a serial racist to the White House because he promised to build a wall to keep out Spanish speakers and to ban Muslims from entering the country. How would they react if they knew that English is not their official language? How would they grapple with terms like lingua franca and de facto?

Staunch nationalists from Australia, as well as their counterparts in the USA and the UK, might also frown at the news that English itself is a mongrel language, which blends Anglo-Saxon, Norman, Germanic, Latin, Gaelic and Scandinavian influences into one lingua franca.

Image: http://www.worldatlas.com

Look, it’s your grandparents.

“Look, Kieran, it’s your grandparents,” called my travel buddies.

My grandparents, in Mexico? Where? How?

My grandparents are not in Mexico and I’m certain they’ve never been to Mexico. How could they possibly be in San Miguel de Allende at the same time as me?

They weren’t.

My companions were just playing a clever joke on me in reference to the enormous number of old white people in San Miguel de Allende. More accurately, the enormous number of old Americans.

The beautiful, small colonial town in central Mexico is a haven for retirees from the United States and it is often possible to see more gringos than Mexicans in this town. So many that my Japanese and Mexican travel buddies thought I should feel the most at home during our fleeting visit.

US retirees flock to San Miguel for its agreeable climate, it’s relatively low cost of living, its preserved colonial architecture and its relaxed pace of life.

They can spend their days taking brunch at any of the boutique cafes which have adapted their menus to suit the American palette. The old gringos can stroll over to the central plaza and admire the architecture of the old cathedral or engage in the age-old pastime of people watching. Those feeling more energetic could follow the tourists who make the short trip to the nearby Sanctuary of Atotonilco.

They can pop into one of the many galleries dotted throughout the town producing traditional Mexican and modern art works, or they can simply admire the facades of the buildings in the centre of the town which have been carefully preserved. So well preserved that the centre of town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The old gringos created a little world for themselves and they are so pervasive that many of the store owners speak English and notice boards are full of activities targeted at seniors. In addition, the Biblioteca Publica (Public Library) which is housed in the former convent of Santa Ana, boasts the second largest collection of English language books in Mexico.

The town is also awash with signs imploring people to slow down.

Yes, nothing moves quickly in San Miguel de Allende.

Even the taxi driver joked about this fact as he crawled through the cobbled streets upon arrival in town. I never asked if he thought this was an advantage or a disadvantage in his line of work. It probably earned him fewer fares per day, but probably kept the meter ticking over for longer and increased the total cost of a journey. Either way, he must surely have been in constant demand in a town full of people with limited mobility.

Of course, in a town full of ‘gringos viejitos’, it’s no surprise that many stores stock an extensive range of walking sticks.

Democracy and the future of major sporting events.

Will major sporting events soon be held only in non-democratic countries?

International sporting events such as the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup may take place only in countries without genuine democracy as governments in democratic countries struggle to justify to their populations the exorbitant cost of hosting these events. Authorities in non-democratic countries, on the other hand, do not need to justify anything to their subjects.

The citizens of democratic nations are increasingly aware of the enormous financial costs and disruption required to host international competitions. The same people are also aware of the lack of funding directed towards more immediate needs in their countries such as schools, universities, hospitals and other infrastructure.

Do major sporting events make a profit?

The question is not so much whether major sporting events make a profit, or if they benefit countries in other ways. The question is whether governments can persuade their populations that the events make a profit or benefit the nation.

Can governments continue to justify the construction of enormous sporting stadia when government schools are underfunded?

Can governments continue to justify accommodating the world’s athletes when hospitals are underfunded?

Can governments justify spending $118 million on opening or closing ceremonies when public transport is insufficient or non-existant?

Brazil highlighted this contradiction recently. The country hosted both the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016 despite a struggling economy, a broken public health system, grossly underfunded public schools and crumbling infrastructure. Many educated Brazilians are still waiting for the promised economic and social benefits of these two events. Many South Africans have undoubtedly been asking the same questions since 2010.

Volunteers

Have you ever volunteered at a major sporting event?

Would you volunteer at a major sporting event?

As everyday people learn more about the corruption and lavish lifestyles of the officials at major sporting organisations, surely they will be less inclined to jump into a garish uniform and stand for hours outside a train station directing fans to venues – for no pay.

Many volunteers have thankless jobs. They never see a moment of sport. The never see their sporting heroes in person. In return, they get to keep their uniform and receive a generic thankyou letter from a random politician. Major sporting events cannot go ahead without an army of volunteers. Could FIFA or the IOC afford to pay every volunteer at one of their international events?

Rulers of non-democratic nations, meanwhile, are better able to persuade citizens to volunteer.

Patriotism

Patriotism drives many volunteers to offer their vital services, but will it be enough in the future?

Patriotism drove young people to volunteer for the army in World War I for example, but many of today’s youth do not share this patriotic fervour. Can the same shift in attitude be applied to the sporting sphere, and would young people choose to volunteer for a sporting event?

Volunteers at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games spoke of their national pride, and continue to reference this as a motivation and reward for volunteering at the games. I myself experienced some of this patriotism when I volunteered. That said, I volunteered in the media, with the best seats in the house, at the Athletics, and spent the games interviewing athletes. I also sat on the finish line, a few rows back, when Cathy Freeman won gold. Most volunteers were not so lucky.

Patriotism also persuaded many Brazilians to eventually support, or at least stop criticising, the hosting of the 2014 World Cup. The government was canny enough to know that the country’s obsession with the world game would eventually silence many of its critics. This enthusiasm surely waned when they lost 7 – 1 to Germany on home soil.

The public is also much more likely to congratulate or tolerate a government’s decision to host a major event in that country wins. Winning elite sporting competitions also costs a lot of money.

Patriotism will still persuade many citizens to support international competitions in the future. Australians were elated to hear that their country will share the FIFA Women’s World Cup with New Zealand in 2023, but by that time will Australia still be a democracy?

A quick internet search reveals that many major events scheduled for the next five years will be held in countries such as Japan, Switzerland, France and Italy, which are universally accepted as democratic. Other events will be held in the USA, but as long as Trump is in office can the USA claim to be democratic?

It’s worth noting that all of these counties were awarded the competitions before the COVID-19 pandemic. When the total financial and social cost of the virus is calculated, will citizens support any future bids for major sporting events?

Authority

Non-democratic countries don’t need to justify anything to their subjects. China, Russia and the Gulf States are now hosting many of the world’s major sporting events and their governments operate unencumbered by public sentiment.

China has hosted many major sporting events and will do so in the near future. They entered this space by hosting the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and have hosted various forms of Asian Games. The Winter Olympics are set to be held in Beijing in 2022 and the country has been the venue for prestigious events in Basketball, Swimming and Athletics in recent years.

China is not a democratic nation.

Russia is an interesting conundrum. Russian athletes were prohibited from competing under the national flag at many recent major events due to widespread state-supported doping, but the country still hosted events such as the Winter Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup and the 2015 World Aquatics Championships in Kazan.

Russia is not a democratic nation.

The Gulf states

The Gulf states are attracting sports administrators to their nations. Their geographical location and air transport hubs make them enticing locations for staging international events, and their oil wealth allows them to cover the costs. The oil money also affords their people a very high standard of living and a subsequent tolerance of government policies.

Qatar is determined to become a sporting nation. They have invested heavily in sporting academies and sporting infrastructure. They host major events and hire foreign experts to train their homegrown talent. They are set to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and have promised to keep players, officials, fans and the media comfortable despite the stifling desert heat. The air conditioned World Cup is bound to cost an absolute fortune, but the oil rich states should have little trouble convincing their subjects to bear this burden.

Having worked at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, which was the first major event of any kind held in that country, I can attest to the enthusiasm, pride and excitement Qataris will feel towards football’s greatest tournament in two year’s time.

The United Arab Emirates has attempted to position itself as a favourable tourism destination through hosting international competitions in sports such as Rugby Sevens, Tennis, Golf, Sailing, Equestrian and Road Running.

The flow-on effect

Financial costs and benefits are not the only factors for governments to consider when deciding to host a major event. Flow-on effects must also be taken into account.

One flow-on effect is the increase in sports participation after a major event such as the Olympic Games. This is not true. Many first-world countries which have recently hosted major events are seeing an increase in childhood obesity every year.

Major events lead to an increase in sports participation immediately after the games, or an increase in participation in particular sports. If a national hockey team or basketball team wins gold, those two sports will most likely attract more members. But many of these sports were probably mass participation sports in that country anyway. Norway wins Cross -Country skiing gold because of the popularity of that sport. The same can be said of Speed Skating in The Netherlands, Rugby Sevens in Fiji and Table Tennis in China.

Facilities

Sporting infrastructure is touted as a positive legacy for a host city or country. Many venues are reused as specialist or multipurpose sporting facilities. However, A quick google search reveals a multitude of facilities in many countries left to crumble after world’s best athletes have departed. Some of these abandoned facilities were used as recently as the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 and the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.

Evidence of this wastage, and the tactics used by governments to justify the initial construction, will surely make citizens of democratic nations more cynical and less inclined to support bids for major events in the future.

E- Sports

Is it cheaper to host E-Sports events?

Competitions still often take place inside sports stadiums but there are fewer competitors at fewer venues who seem to require less equipment. Competitions consist of a few ‘gamers’, their elaborate computer game equipment, copious energy drinks and some broadcast equipment to display the action on a big screen and to livestream to audiences around the world. The fact that E-Sports competitions take place electronically means that they can be enjoyed online. Does this make them easier and cheaper to host?

E-Sports must be an enticing options for governments in the future because they are enormously popular. The most watched Youtube videos are those featuring computer games and gamers.

Are we looking at this the wrong way?

Instead of asking whether only authoritarian regimes will host major events in the future, can we cite the hosting of an international sporting competition as evidence that a country is not democratic?

Persuading the powerful

Finally, how many countries will be able to afford to ‘persuade’ the sports officials who decide which country hosts the upcoming sporting extravaganza?

Alvin and Calvin vs. Carl and Carlos.

Alvin and Calvin Harrison and Carl Ernest and Carlos Ernesto Morgan have a lot in common. Both sets of twins are identical and both attended college in the United States. Both favour sprints and all four men represented their country in Athletics.

So, who would win a head to head competition between the families?

Firstly, we would have to decide on an event. We would have to choose neutral sporting territory.

While both sets of twins excelled in sprinting, Alvin and Calvin specialised in the 400m while Carl and Carlos enjoyed success over 100 and 200 metres, as well as long jump and triple jump.

Should we throw in a jumping contest? The Harrison boys only competed on the track, but I bet they are handy jumpers.

Perhaps a race over 300 metres?

What about the age difference?

The Harrison brothers were born on January 20, 1974, and the Morgan siblings on August 25, 1986, so some concessions may have to be made for the gap in ages.

We must then choose a venue.

The Harrisons hail from Orlando, Florida USA, while the Morgans were born and raised in Georgetown on the Cayman Islands. The Harrison siblings attended North Salinas High School in California and Hartnell College (Calvin), while the Morgan boys left home for Lindsey Wilson College, then Middle Tennessee State University, both in the USA.

The Cayman Islands seems to be the best site for an Athletic showdown. Why, because the Cayman Islands are much more beautiful than Orlando.

Having chosen the event and the venue, we can now examine historical records to compile a form guide for the competition.

Alvin and Calvin became the first twins to win a gold medal together in the same relay team when they combined with Michael Johnson and Antonio Pettigrew in the 4 x 400m relay at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Alvin ran the first leg and Calvin the third, both of them wearing state of the art bodysuits.

Alvin won individual silver in the 400m behind Johnson in Sydney, and also won gold in the relay at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. During his first relay gold medal victory, Alvin ran a strong second leg to ensure victory for a depleted US team.

Unfortunately, the brothers’ history making feat was annulled in 2008 when Pettigrew confessed to using performance enhancing drugs, and the quartet lost their medals. Calvin himself failed a drug test at the 2003 US Championship and was suspended from Athletics for two years.

Alvin also embroiled himself in drug-related controversy. He served a four year suspension due to circumstantial evidence of using a banned substance. He attempted a comeback in 2008, this time competing for the Dominican Republic, the birth country of his wife.

Under the new flag, he ran the 400m heats at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics and placed fourth with his new countrymen in the 4 x 400m relay at the 2010 IAAF World Indoor Championships.

Carl and Carlos combined in the 4 x 100m relay at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games where the Cayman Islands team was disqualified. In long jump qualifying heats, Carl jumped 7.46, and Carlos…7.47. They entered the same event in Glasgow four years later. Carl finished 10th in the long jump in the Pan American Games 2011.

Head to Head

Another method for measuring comparative excellence is to compare personal bests.

 CarlCarlosAlvinCalvin
100m10.7710.8910.5210.69
200m21.4921.9720.4120.57
400m48.5949.0944.0944.64
Long jump8.027.87  
Triple jump15.9614.68  
300m  32.00 

Since Alvin hung up his spikes, he has led high performance programs across various sports in the Dominican Republic and the United States.

Calvin, meanwhile, ended up homeless in 2009. He lost his life savings fighting his athletic suspension and insisting the substance he took was not on the banned substance list. He had secured work as a personal trainer after retiring from competition, but lost this work and struggled to support his wife and four kids. While his family sought shelter in a refuge, Calvin wandered the streets at night.

Alvin and Calvin co-authored a book called Go to Your Destiny, recounting their experience with homelessness before their Olympic victories.

Carl and Carlos both studied Health, Fitness and Wellness and continue to work in this field.

The biggest question which remains unanswered is, does Carlos Ernesto speak Spanish?

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