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Entertainment International Review

Tenet (2020): Nolan’s Half-Empty Vessel With Barely Any Noise

Let’s get one thing straightened out — Christopher Nolan makes resplendent cinema.

Whether its chronologically mischievous narratives in 20th century breakthrough Memento, bouncing Joseph Gordon-Levitt off twisting corridors à la Inception, or the (literally) star-spangled intergalactic regurgitation of Interstellar, the mercurial filmmaker requires no introduction to his mastery of tapping into our childlike wonder whilst simultaneously turning our adult psyche into mush.

When it comes to commandeering tropes which are often deemed tried-tested-expired by even the most venturesome filmmakers, it’s Nolan who wraps his claws around stale waters, promising riches in waterfalls and Trevi fountains. Where many see difficulty it’s Nolan who sees opportunity.

Which makes writing this all the more gruesome. I wanted to love Tenet.

It encapsulated much of what pandemic fatigued movie-goers needed after being holed up indoors; a paradoxical, mind-melting plot device anchored by time; a Black ‘James Bond’ display of nitty gritty action sequences; a devilishly handsome cast; and another Nolan puzzle that would dominate dinner party conversations for months.

Tenet dons the classic ‘spy saves the world’ suit by introducing our Protagonist (which is also his only callsign throughout), played by John David Washington, embroiled in a mysterious global war he doesn’t yet seem to understand, spearheaded by equally talented counterparts in Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, and Kenneth Branagh for its pivotal characters.

For its score, longtime collaborator Hans Zimmer took a backseat for a more sentimental project, meaning Nolan relied on Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther, The Mandalorian) to curate the grand synergy between visuals and sonics that’s trademarked as a Nolan signature in his blockbusters.

We’re steadfastly thrown into disarray as Tenet’s opening seconds follows Protagonist into an asset extraction mission that takes place in an Opera house. All seems to be going well (or not, we can barely tell because of intentionally murky character dialogue, a well-documented gripe audiences have with beloved Nolan) until, amidst the swarm of gunfire, we’re shown that a single bullet is un-fired from an object of which it has already hit, closing its initial entry point, ricocheting back to its firer’s direction, and the surface is spanking brand new again.

Our visibly perplexed Protagonist spots this anomaly, now etched into his mind, before scurrying on with his time-sensitive extraction mission. This is the film’s first tease and entrapment of what its sci-fi element entails, reminiscent of Inception’s opener/Di Caprio’s dream-state flurry, and in we go to the whirlpool of time travel.

Except it isn’t. It’s inversion, the reversal of an object’s entropy, allowing it to move backwards in motion while everything else around it tick-tocks forward as per normal. How it all works is briefly explained several scenes later, with Protagonist and an inversion scientist convincing him (and invariably us) that understanding it is futile — feel it, she says. To grasp inversion she advises him to first picture traditional movements in his mind’s eye, then to execute it backwards. And what follows is brilliant absurdity.

In the realms of Tenet, punches, or inversion punches, are sonically portrayed as vacuum-like suctions accompanied with the visual motion of arm moving backwards, yet still inflicting damage. Try picturing an inverted wrestling match with multiple participants.

Inversion car chases mean engines roar to strange screeches when being driven. Devastating explosions deconstruct from clouds of smoke into atom-less nothings, with surrounding damage reconstructing back into its original form. A Boeing 747 is un-blown to smithereens to form its whole again. Inversion fire? Sub-zero ice.

All of which makes for fantastic viewing, and when coupled with backwards sound design, Tenet is unlike anything any film has offered in such elaboration, unless you count putting on Transformers entirely on rewind.

But the grandiosity stops there.

The same intricacy and accuracy to sound, however, is alarmingly absent for the aforementioned character dialogue. A substantial amount of understanding the film hinged upon its explanations, and in all his inversion whimsy, Nolan seems to have forgotten that his audiences aren’t soppy sacks of toddlers that salivate at mere booms and swashbuckling action.

For all the cerebral lunacy which he wants us to feel when watching Tenet, the sheer inaudibility of speech meant viewers are left with more questions than answers, and not in a fun ‘solve the mystery’ notion.

If Inception was an unsolved Rubik’s cube, Tenet is that cube, but with its sides so disheveled and banged up to the point where you could no longer discern its colours. The cube becomes unplayable and  thus unsolvable, similar to how Tenet was at times unwatchable because a plethora of its key plot points and explanations was, to put it mildly, audible mumbling.

We’re left pondering over every minute detail in its major action sequence, which consisted of an impressive inversion ‘Pincer movement’ of soldiers in differing timelines, before we could indulge in all its glory. But by then, the pace of the movie had already swept its viewers into incongruent abyss. Purchase a second screening in attempts to re-hear what was said? Not in this economy.

Unlike in Dunkirk, where dialogue wasn’t pivotal, and Inception, where visual cues already contained precedence in meaning, it’s deplorable that Nolan’s post-pandemic endeavour suffers from something that could so easily be rectified.

All this, without even getting started on the casts’ poor character development, his tiresome, sexist caricature of Elizabeth Debicky’s character, and his continuous blindspot for female portrayals.

Under the guise of ‘the next Inception’, or even as a standalone, I wanted to love this film — but this was too far off the mark. If Tenet was intended as a pandemic reprieve, look (and listen) elsewhere.

Overall Rating: 2.5/5

Tenet/Cinemablend
Categories
International Sports Tennis

The US Open, Dogged with Withdrawals and Criticism, is Trotting Ahead

The annual tournament, one of the 4 major tennis Grand Slams, commences behind closed doors for the first time on 31 August 2020, albeit with vastly differing narratives from past years.

A Grand Slam without its glorious crowd

Like many other global spectacles in the sporting world, tennis sees its fair share of restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 virus. Tennis’ restart in mid-July was met with mixed reactions following its uncertain calendar, and complications now follow its major Slams.

For starters, the matches taking place in Flushing Meadows and its famed Arthur Ashe Stadium will be watched on by a spectator count of zero. The first time since its inception, the 140-year tournament will be fully televised in an effort to curb the pandemic’s reach.

Raj Tatavarthy/Pexels

Arthur Ashe Stadium will be donned with a scrim hiding empty audience seats, with several large LED screens strategically positioned to display scores and announcements.

This comes after 2 other Grand Slams, the French Open and the Wimbledon Championships, both traditionally held before its US counterpart, were postponed and cancelled, respectively.

Often touted as the largest spectacle of the 4 slams, organisers of the New York-based tournament were initially skeptical of progressing, with prominent voices within the tennis sphere voicing disapproval of a tournament held without fans, if at all.

They’d made their concerns public on 7 July; a week later, the body reversed their sentiment, and announced its commencement of the tournament as planned.

Naturally the decision amassed significant backlash — most understandably with the host country battling a spike in infections — prompting condemnation from tennis notables and withdrawals from prominent players.

Who’s in and who’s out

As high-profile match-ups go, the tournament will be lacking its usual flair and splendor with the mounting list of withdrawals.

Of the players to have pulled out, marquee names like defending champion Rafael Nadal and women’s World No.1 Ashleigh Barty have been resolute in their non-participation of the tournament early on in July.

The Women’s 2019 Roland Garros winner felt there are “still significant risks involved due to COVID-19“.

“I don’t feel comfortable putting my team and I in that position. I wish the USTA all the best for the tournaments and look forward to being back in the U.S. next year.”

Quickly following Barty’s announcement was 2004’s winner Svetlana Kuznetsova, who also cited the logistics and safety of getting her team together, as well as the safety of those around her as the main reasons for her withdrawal.

“I feel very sad, because I have been (waiting) for these tournaments so much, but the pandemic changes all plans.”

Defending women’s champion Bianca Andreescu, reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, Kiki Bertens, and Belinda Bencic have also pulled out. That means as it stands, half of the women’s world top 10 will not be seen in New York.

Instead, it is likely that these players will participate in European tournaments like the French Open, which commences just a week after the US Open closes curtains.

US representative Serena Williams has said that this is an ‘asterisk year’ for tennis, citing that a sport’s tournaments and competitions will forever be tainted by special circumstances, such as wars or pandemics.

“I think this whole year deserves an asterisk, because it’s such a special year, a history we have never been through in this world.”

Rafael Nadal has meanwhile expressed on social media that the remaining fixtures for the rest of the season are ‘barbaric’, following his withdrawal announcement.

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who has been vocally critical about tennis’ irresponsibility since the pandemic, has withdrawn from the 2020 season altogether.

The Australian has, rightly so, publicly condemned influential players like Novak Djokovic and Borna Coric after they organised an exhibition tournament where several top players eventually tested positive, putting players and communities’ safety at risk.

“Dear Tennis, let us take a breath here and remember what is important, which is health and safety as a community,” Kyrgios said.

“Even with the [Black Lives Matter] movement and the whole protests and that type of stuff going on over there, I just don’t think at the moment it’s the correct time to go ahead with sport, in my opinion.”

Both Djokovic and Coric will be participating in New York. Roger Federer has announced his withdrawal citing injury, while Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev are confirmed, which means at the moment nearly half of the World’s Men’s top 10 will not be participating.

Kei Nishikori, who pulled out of the Western and Southern Open tournaments because of positive COVID tests, has also withdrawn his participation in the Grand Slam. This comes after he announced that he was finally clear of the virus on 27 August.

The Japanese has also been battling an elbow injury for the better half of a year.

“I am happy to announce that I tested negative for COVID,” he shared on his app.

“Having said that, I (together with my team) have decided to skip the US Open this year. After such a long break I feel that returning in a best of 5 long-match setting is not smart until I am fully ready to do so.”

The US Open runs from 31 August 2020 to 13 September 2020.

Categories
Exclusive Football International Sports

Premiere League’s Alleged Corruption — Just What Is Going On With Newcastle’s Takeovers?

Over an entire decade, Newcastle United Football Club’s (NUFC) owner Mike Ashley has made his intentions of selling the Tyneside club clear.

Since his acquisition in 2007 for £135 million, the British billionaire has, on multiple occasions, reiterated his desire to let go of the reigns amidst incompetence in the Premiere League, most vocally by mounting pressure from fans.

Ashley, who owns multiple businesses like discount chain Sports Direct, boxing goods manufacturer Everlast, and a slew of other sporting good brands, has been cited as a lackluster investor and ‘void of ambition’ in trying to resurrect NUFC to a semblance of its glory days, prioritising cost-effectiveness over sporting success.

Yet it isn’t for a lack of suitors that the club has failed to acquire a new owner.

Since his ownership, a slew of potential buyers have partaken in long, drawn out sagas of discussions till the fallout of an eventual sale — a circus most recently fronted by Singaporean firm Bellagraph Nova Group (BNG). Just why exactly have these fallen through?

Reuters investigates Bellagraph Nova Group

BNG were the latest to throw their hat into the takeover ring on August 15 2020; in a press release, the newly registered Singapore company announced a turnover of $12 billion in 2019 from its headquarters in Paris, whilst stating that “negotiations are at an advanced stage” following a letter of intent (LOI) and proof of funds (POF) sent to Mike Ashley.

A statement made by the group also claimed that they were closely working with former England captain Alan Shearer and former NUFC player Michael Chopra for the takeover. BNG’S bid was $280 million.

The group, which was registered only in July 2020, then posted marketing collaterals of their co-founding members Terence Loh, Nelson Loh, and Evangeline Shen engaged in a photo-op with Barack Obama on multiple occasions.

However, when pressed on the legitimacy of their intentions and operations by Reuters, BNG’s existence is riddled with discrepancies.

According to government records, no company under the name of Bellagraph Nova Group is officially registered in France; the address of which they are said to have been operating out of — 10 Place Vendome — does not contain the company’s records either.

Alan Shearer’s management subsequently said he was not involved in the takeover efforts.

Then, when questioned on their publicity efforts, BNG’s head of investor relations released a separate statement stating that the company had knowingly edited photos of the ex-United States president as if he had attended one of their company’s meeting. They have since taken down said photos from their social channels.

BNG has also listed affiliations and claimed ownership of multiple companies and entities (Hydra X, NETX, BN Airlines), most of which have outrightly rubbished the purported relationship or do not exist altogether.

While it remains to be seen what transpires, Reuters reports that all three of the co-founders did not respond to their requests for comments. Mike Ashley has not yet responded publicly to the bid, as well as the controversy.

Saudi Arabia’s ‘almost’ takeover, and the League’s deafening silence

Before BNG, it was Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), who proposed a $300 million purchase of NUFC in a consortium. The PIF, which invests in international projects, is Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.

Out of all the bids in the past, the Prince’s takeover was the only one that had reached the closing stages of checks by the Premiere League’s owners’ and directors’ test, which assesses the suitability of an entity to parent a football club.

The takeover was stalled by the League for several months during these tests, of which many political and corruption issues saw the light of day.

In one of the many hindrances, human rights organisations condemned Saudi Arabia’s owners and practices concerning welfare. Amnesty International also advised that a regime that’s consistently embroiled in human rights abuses should be distanced from the Premiere League.

In 2018, the CIA concluded that Bin Salman ordered the 2018 assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

Premiere League CEO Richard Masters had been singled out for this, with Amnesty UK director Kate Allen having requested a ban of the takeover.

“I believe there are serious questions to address in determining whether the owners and directors of the company seeking to acquire NUFC are meeting standards that can protect the reputation and image of the game,” Allen said in a letter to Masters.

Further, prominent NUFC fanbase site, nufc.blog.co.uk, have taken it upon themselves to shed light on the ostensibly nefarious reasons as to why the Saudi takeover was stalled by the League, who has substantial ties with officials in Qatar and broadcasting rights with Qatar owned BeIN Sports.

As the Telegraph reports, “The league is desperate to hang on to keeping their process secret because they have Ashley’s lawyers circling in one corner and BeIN Sports in the other.”

At present, Newcastle United are several weeks into the transfer window without purchasing any players. Mike Ashley is still the owner, and are two weeks away from the start of the new season.

Categories
Basketball International Sports USA

The NBA Season Has An All Too Familiar Agenda To Prove

As play resumed across makeshift spaces for basketball matches to be restarted and televised, a prominent, familiar phrase takes center stage next to the NBA logo — ‘Black Lives Matter’.

Merchandise of players that were often trademarked by their last names, instead carried much more weight, with powerful phrases that have accompanied the uprising against systemic racism within the country, and the world.

It is paramount that the NBA wants to tackle social injustices, but how effective are its vessels, and to what extent is this pursuance translated to actualisation?

Sport, by many sociological standards, has and will always be a repository for injustices and transgressions. Many can recall the antics of Colin Kaepernick during the playing of the national anthem as an immense paradigm reconstruction towards a conversation that has long been seen as a necessary uprising.

Whilst many sporting bodies have scurried to necessitate a message that has recently taken millions to the streets for protests, when it comes to the matter of sport, basketball is plausibly the location that’s been championed as the capital fort for peak change.

Basketball is chiefly consumed by ethnic minority fans, with two-thirds of those tuning in being non-white. Race has always surrounded the hoops.

The league seems fervent on tackling the conversation straightforwardly, but its arguably the players themselves that have always embodied this notion of inequality even before they make it ‘pro’, especially when the odds are stacked against them inordinately.

“Growing up poor and with few opportunities, sports are one of the few ways young black men, especially, can conceive of success,” says Rasheed Wallace, the youngest of three sons of a single mother who grew up in inner city Philadelphia, told BBC.

Wallace played for 2004 champions Detroit Pistons, and speaks of the uphill plight that’s set from the get-go.

“You see a lot of black parents getting on their kids, no matter (whether) it’s football, basketball, baseball or any sport. It’s like, ‘look — this could be our ticket out of here.”

“There’s a standard you have to live up to. And for us, being black kids in the ghetto, we know that. That if I can make it, I got a chance to make it better for my family.”

Detrimentally, it is reality that their success on court does not translate to the lens of which society views a black man when the dunks come off.

George Floyd, a towering Texan who was 46 when he was killed, and Stephan Jackson, 42, shared physical traits so alike they labelled themselves as twins.

“Today, one has an NBA championship ring and network sports podcast, and the other is dead.”

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has since been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in relation to his death, along with other officers involved with aiding and abetting his murder, their trial to take place in March 2021.

Deservedly, many share the same suspicions as Jackson regarding the league’s social efforts, which indeed do not mirror the sentiments of the realities of the situation.

While three-quarters of professional NBA players are black, only a single team, out of 30, has a black majority owner. Currently, there are only 6 black general managers in the game.

What’s excruciatingly clear too are the participants of the game, their fans, the pundits, notable public influencers, and even to an extent players themselves, who do not believe in harnessing the power of sport for change.

Popular right-wing news anchor Laura Ingraham quipped “Shut up and dribble” when LeBron James was famously critical of Donald Trump’s publicly racist attitude in 2018.

As 71-year-old Spurs coach Gregg Popovich grimly puts it, there is a sense of pragmatism when it comes to social shifts in the game.

“Fans are like any other group of people — some will get it, some will understand, some will just enjoy the games and move on,” he says.

As a form of entertainment via competition with a hefty influence on social messaging, sport can mirror the grunge realities and unsavoury shenanigans of its time.

It is time, then, that the realities of being black, or of colour, are properly enshrined, and with vigour, to challenge status quos, America’s ‘original sin’. For many, being political, like the colour of their skin, is not a choice.

Categories
Europe Football International Sports United Kingdom

A Round-Up Of The 19/20 English Premiere League And A

The 2019/20 English Premiere League (EPL) finally drew its curtains on Sunday, 26 July 2020.

Spanning almost an entire year, the 28th season was the league’s longest ever, with an unprecedented 100-day hiatus enacted from March till mid-June.

After global sporting events had been put on an indefinite hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league subsequently drew up plans to safely reinstate the season, titled ‘Project Restart’. It officially began on 17 June 2020 behind closed doors but televised.

As its trophy was lifted by eventual champions Liverpool in a vacant Anfield stadium, we marvel at some of the accolades, statistics, and circumstances which made this a remarkable season throughout.

The Champions

Liverpool ended their 30 year hunt for a league title since 1990, and their first in the modern Premiere League era. Beyond the trophy, the Merseyside club boasts a treasure trove of impressive achievements throughout their dispatch.

The league leaders finished the season with a 99-point record, just a point shy of breaking Manchester City’s 2017/18 stronghold, but amassed a major 25-point lead during the season, the biggest ever obtained in English top-flight history. They’ve also pipped City to the most home wins in a row (21), outshining the blues (20) in their 2011-2012 season.

This Liverpool team are also the quickest to win the title in history, with 7 matches to spare, outing both Manchester outfits (5).

Lastly, they’ve also achieved a feat no other team has in any of Europe’s top leagues, boasting 79 points from their first 27 matches to be awarded the best league start ever, a stat befitting of the English and European champions.

The League

The hiatus and eventual restart was a welcome sight for some and saw a fall from grace for others.

Frank Lampard’s maiden season in-charge in the league saw him silence critics and steer Chelsea to a 4th place finish, meaning their position for Champions League football was deservedly secured ahead of their FA Cup final against Arsenal, which they eventually lost. The Gunners plundered for glory in the Cup as their only hopes for European competition, after finishing 8th under Mikel Arteta.

Level in points to Chelsea (but besting in goal difference) were 3rd placed Manchester United, who much enjoyed a spring in form as the only team left unbeaten since the restart (5W2D), with many attributing their success to January capture Bruno Fernandes.

The Red Devils, along with Wolverhampton Wanderers, are also still in the mix for the Europa League trophy, which could see either Ole’s or Nuno’s side possibly come away with a Champions League position should either emerge as champions.

Pep Guardiola’s side finished 18 points behind Liverpool, and despite being runner-up’s, have drawn criticism from pundits and watchers for their unfamiliar erratic form throughout the season.

Leicester City’s hopes of obtaining a Champions League place after finishing 5th were dashed by Manchester City’s successful appeal to overturn their UEFA ban, and re-occupying a Champions League seat, which see the foxes competing in the Europa League instead, alongside José Mourinho’s 6th placed Tottenham Hotspur.

The Pandemic

The league adapted to a variety of changes which were put in place for the pandemic. ‘Project Restart’ saw teams train in social distancing groups of 5, with squads being segregated into allotted training schedules and divided segments of training grounds, with dedicated coaching staff for each session.

Stadiums were allowed a maximum of 300 people at any one time, which meant beyond squad members, club staff, and grounds caretakers, matches were played in front of a barren stadium void of chants and cheering.

An inevitable consequence of this meant home and away games did not replicate the same ambience and mental weight as status quo, but also that watchers of the game on television could opt between ‘simulated stadium ambient’ sounds of cheers, or simply hearing the players’ shouts and screams as they were.

FIFA also allowed a use of 5 substitutes instead of the usual 3, which addressed fitness concerns and workload on players post-restart. Dedicated “red zones”, such as dressing rooms and tunnel/technical areas, were enacted with specific health restrictions, which included barcode scanning and COVID-19 health questionnaires prior to entry.

It remains to be seen how the 2020/21 season, beginning in September will shape up to be and whether the plethora of measures will still be in place/policed, but many grey areas, like the non-policing and non-punishment of players for violating stipulations, as well as post-match embracing and celebrations, will be enforced, if at all.

Beginning 12 September 2020, the season will see West Bromwich Albion promoted, as well as Leeds United’s 16-year return, while Bournemouth, Watford, and Norwich City are relegated to the Championship.

Categories
Athletics Local Singapore South East Asia Sports

Singapore Athletics Examines Leaked Recording, After Recent Scandals Take Stage

A three-hour long audio recording of the association’s extraordinary general meeting (EOGM) started to make its rounds on 13 July 2020, as the group and its members were reviewing its constitution.

The Singapore Athletics Association (SA) has since released a statement, condemning the leak and further opening investigations into its source.

Speaking to The Straits Times, SA president Tang Weng Fei has said that it was reiterated and emphasised multiple times and “made clear repeatedly” that any of the association’s meetings and proceedings are highly private and confidential.

Affiliate members attending the virtual meeting were made aware of this.

“There were strict professional instructions and conditions provided to the members before the EOGM, and reiterated at least twice during the EOGM, but the professional standards were not adhered to by certain members,” he said.

“Actions will have to be taken to make those who were responsible, account for their conduct, as confidential information was imparted (by all attending) on the common understanding and obligation of confidence.”

During the EOGM, 20 of the association’s 23 affiliate members, as well as 15 other associate members, attended a meeting which lasted around five hours.

As per the contents of the clip, Tang himself was addressing a question from honorary secretary of Wings Athletics Club. The SA had suggested a removal of their voting rights from its athletes’ commission representatives.

This, along with other proposed changes, were several that were raised during the meeting, which elicited concerns from some clubs even prior to the EOGM.

Notably, the clip was thereafter reposted on social media by Soh Rui Yong, a national marathoner, who famously sued SA for defamation earlier last year. The marathoner felt their statement on his non-selection for the 2019 edition of the SEA Games in the Phillippines was unwarranted.

In his Facebook post, Soh questions the proposed changes to the SA’s constitution, of which were made by Tang.

In another Facebook update on 3 August, Soh posted an update regarding his lawsuit against the SA:

“During a hearing before the Singapore High Court this morning, the Court ordered costs of $2,500 in my favour, to be paid by Singapore Athletics (SA).”

The leak comes after the SA was embroiled in a sexual misconduct case in the sport. Former veteran coach Loh Siang Piow, 75, was found guilty in June 2020 for molestation and abuse of a teenage athlete on several occasions.

In 2013, Loh had sexually abused the then 18-year-old victim under the guise of a sports massage to ease her cramps. This happened on two occasions at Tampines Stadium.

The SA has reiterated that it strives to construct safe sporting environments for athletes, citing the introduction of several measures that has been implemented ever since its new management committee was formed in 2018. It had downsized the size of its committee subsequently to prevent nominees from infighting.

The association has also been strengthening the appropriate channels utilised for any potential misconduct in the future, working closely with Sport Singapore to provide education and awareness.

Tang, when probed for comments on the guilty verdict, only said that Loh “contributed significantly over the years as an athlete, coach and administrator”.

Having never encountered any cases of abuse or harassment in her 16 years of representing Singapore, three-time Paralympic gold medallist Yip Pin Xiu, 28, reminds that vigilance is key.

“There might possibly be cases of under-reporting, considering how sexual assault victims everywhere normally find it hard to speak out. I think that (Loh’s) case will encourage people to speak up on these kinds of experiences.”

Categories
Athletics International Sports

After Years of Discussions on ‘Technological Doping’, World Athletics Updates Its Playbook

Technological advances in recent decades have meant athletes have had to struggle to compete not just on the plains of physical tenacity, but also on the equipment of which they adorn. The long-standing conversation of what constitutes use of ‘fair’ equipment, such as swimsuits, shoes, or baseball bats, has long been embroiled in debates.

As a result, governing bodies like World Athletics have had to constantly revise their takes on the rules governing shoe technology, allowing no leeway and absolute certainties when it comes to the preparation of sporting events. This seeks to maintains the integrity and true spirit of elite, high-level competition.

Ahead of the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, World Athletics have introduced, upon immediate effect, stringent amendments made to these guidelines, in collaboration with the Working Group on Athletic Shoes (WGAS) as well as shoe manufacturers.

Some changes include the maximum height of spiked shoes for track and field events, as well as a new scheme entitled the ‘Athletic Shoe Availability Scheme’ for athletes who are not sponsored by manufacturers and companies.

The new regulations sanctioned an instant ban on shoes with soles thicker than 40mm, as well as those that contained more than a single plate.

Also stated are that any shoes that athletes compete in must have been available for purchase on the retail market for a period of 4 months, which tackles the use of prototypes in competition.

Here is a full list of the amendments.

World Athletics have made it clear that the set changes are to maintain a level of consistency, status quo and technology amongst all equipment, and level the playing fields for competing in the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Until a newly formed WGAS that includes representatives from global bodies such as the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) and shoe manufactures have had the opportunity to cement standard guidelines, the amendments are a stopgap in place in pursuit of a good balance between innovation, competitive advantage, and availability of equipment to athletes.

Jon Ridgeon, CEO of World Athletics, has said that this revised set of rule changes was only possible because of the tabling of the Tokyo Olympic Games till 2021. A first set of changes made in late January of 2020, were also enacted, and now that the relevant bodies have had more time, they have been amended with the help of stakeholders and experts to form a more updated set.

“We have a better understanding now of what technology is already in the market and where we need to draw the line to maintain the status quo until after the Tokyo Olympic Games,” said the CEO.

“In developing these rules we have been mindful of the principles of fair play and universality, maintaining the health and safety of athletes, reflecting the existing shoe market in these challenging economic times, and achieving a broad consensus with the shoe manufacturers who are major investors in our sport.

“These transitional rules give us more time to develop a set of working rules for the long term, which will be introduced after the Olympic Games next year, with the aim of achieving the right balance between competitive advantage and universality.”

The newly formed WGAS had their first meeting on 22 July 2020.

Their tasking includes: scoping and overseeing studies around shoe technology; exploring definitions to provide clarity to athletes about the shoes they are able to compete in; creating a robust certification and control process; and providing expert advice and recommendations to the World Athletics Competition Commission on the future direction of World Athletics’ Rules and Regulations concerning elite athlete shoes for the long-term.

Categories
Athletics Sports United Kingdom

Gay Olympian Tom Bosworth Suffers Homophobic Abuse from Athletics Volunteer

The 30-year old British race-walker was contacted by The Independent in their efforts to support the openly gay athlete, who has reported the abuse to the social media platform.

The abuser, who was an athletics volunteer that belongs in the same county, used a highly derogatory term that is often targeted against the gay community, saying “F**s aren’t welcome in athletics.”

Bosworth, who is an ambassador of Stonewall, a campaign that champions equality for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, condemned the attack in a series of messages on social media platform Twitter.

In a series of tweets, the Brit reported that this had not been the first incident of the sort, referring to the abuse and bullying he received in 2018 from an official in Yorkshire.

“I’ve once tweeted about an athletics official bully, and I was accused of being in the wrong,” Bosworth wrote.

“So I’m going cautiously but, I’ll call them an athletics volunteer, from the same county messaged to let me know, ‘f**s like me aren’t welcome within athletics’. 2020 fills me with hope.”

Bosworth added, “I’ve reported to the relevant social media platform. I get the impression they wouldn’t have the guts to say anything in person but will keep an eye out.

“I laughed (to myself) and blocked them. Won’t engage with that any more. I’m only in the mood to spread joy.”

UK Athletics confirmed that they were aware of the incident. Bosworth posted again after, thanking the support he’s received on the platform, as well as from the governing body.

“On this occasion I decided not to take it further. Any repeat, that won’t be the case. I’m confident in my own skin and will protect those who aren’t.”

Bosworth won silver in the 20km race walk at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. His second stint at the Olympics would have been at Tokyo 2020, having finished sixth in the 20km final at the previous Olympics, Rio 2016.

Earlier this year, Bosworth also set back-to-back British records for the 5km and 10km race walks, just days prior to the announcement that Britain’s lockdown would begin.

“We’d just got so much right through the winter. All the hard work was kind of perfect and it all ground to a halt,” Bosworth told the BBC.

“I’m not going to lie, I took the dog for a walk, had a little cry to myself in the field. Thankfully no one else was around.”

“I threw the ball for the dog and went home and said ‘ok, athletes adapt’. I know how I got myself in this shape, and I know I can do it again next year.”

As one of the few openly gay athletes, Bosworth is often queried on his thoughts about the LGBTQ+ movements and conversations surrounding since his coming out in 2015. He proposed to his fiancé on Copacabana Beach during the Rio Olympics.

“I don’t feel like we’ve moved on at all, if I’m honest, unfortunately. It opened my eyes to a real world that I didn’t know anything about — LGBT inclusion in sport, and the lack of representation there.”

“It’s more ‘how do we make it a norm’, make it comfortable for people to live openly, rather than have to come out.”

“I never realised how big of a deal coming out publicly as a sportsman was until it happened. That became clear to me over the years, just how few LGB people are in sport, let alone LGBT, and reaching out to the rest of the community is going to come even further down the line before that becomes the norm or just commonplace.”

“So it’s disappointing – it’s changing really slowly though.”

Categories
Asia International Japan News Sports Tokyo

2020 Tokyo Olympics Postponed to 2021, But Will It Be Enough?

Of the major sporting events around the world that have been struggling for a semblance of return to normalcy, a considerable mountain looms — the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Initially scheduled to begin in July, the event has been tabled altogether for an unknown date, with officials announcing a return “by the summer of 2021”.

But medical experts say that the Games, which involve over 200 countries, would pose a major health risk to not just the Japanese public, but to participants and officials all over the globe, with antibodies and vaccines predicted to be insufficient even if available.

“With events like the Olympics, the virus will come in for sure and the number of infections will shoot up inevitably,” Daiichi Morii, one of the doctor’s from Osaka University Hospital’s infection control team, told Reuters.

“The virus is barely under control as we are putting a halt on the inflow of people from overseas. With the Olympics, the number of infections will inevitably rise.”

Experts also believe that, despite hundreds of potential vaccines in trial, none will be ready in time for the Olympics, a sentiment that is echoed by professor Atsuo Hamada of the Tokyo Medical University Hospital.

“Even if a vaccine has been developed by then, it’s near impossible for it to go around the world.”

With a population of 14 million in Tokyo alone, Japan’s relative success in containing the virus effectively means very few antibodies among the population. According to a government survey, only 0.1% of Tokyo residents have coronavirus antibodies, as compared to 14% in New York and 7% in Stockholm.

Tokyo, as well as some of its bordering areas like the western region of Kansai, have also seen new single-day records for the number of infections ever since the government lifted its nationwide state of emergency in May 2020.

Yet despite seeing a spike in new infections over July, the country has marginally skirted the destructive effects in comparison to other countries around the world, which has led authorities and the government to rule out the abolishing of the Olympics altogether.

President of the Olympics organising committee Yoshiro Mori has reiterated his hopes for the Games, stating that a watered down, simplified version will provide a safer environment, as well as cut costs, although no concrete plan of action has since been announced.

Yet, concerns are aplenty throughout the city. In a Tokyo voter survey conducted by one of Japan’s most substantial newspapers, the Asahi Shimbun, almost 60% of citizens polled have reiterated that the Games should be postponed further or better yet, cancelled altogether.

Mori, together with recently re-elected official Yuriko Koike, have set up plans for a dedicated task force with the authorities to be enacted by September to address the growing public concern.

The current re-elected governor of Tokyo, Koike has stated on multiple occasions her insistence on going ahead with the Games. However, no concrete point of action, or plan, has been set out by the government nor the Olympics production team yet.

The delay has cost Japan between $2 billion to $6 billion, having already spent roughly $12 billion in preparation; and while the host country disputes the Games’ possibility, all around the globe the pandemic’s effects are further compounded.

In the United States, television broadcaster NBC, having already pledged about $8 billion for media rights to the Olympic Games’ franchise, are scrambling to find solutions for the circumstances amidst the possibility of a compressed competition.

The US, usually boasting the largest population of participants in the Olympics, now finds itself in the middle of discussions to reduce the participating contingent, or pull certain athletes out of the games entirely.

“It’s impossible to predict what the circumstances will be a year from now,” said Molly Solomon, executive producer at NBC for the Games. “This has a chance to be the most memorable Games in History.”

To date, the US has recorded 4.75 million cases of the virus, with 157,000 deaths. Worldwide, there have been 18 million cases, with 689,000 deaths.

The Olympics have only been abolished during the two World Wars, with one also being Tokyo, in 1940.

Categories
Athletics International Sports

Usain Bolt’s Failed Foray into Football, and Why Retirement Became Permanent

The Jamaican former sprinter and world record holder has hit back at his short-lived stint as a professional footballer recently, saying he was never given a “fair chance” at success.

The eight-time Olympic gold medallist is an ardent fan of the sport, and has made his love for English Premiere League greats Manchester United known. One of the most successful clubs in football, it was even widely rumoured that he could pair up with the Red Devils’ B-team for a stint, if not for its marketing potentiality.

Bolt retired from athletics in 2017 but then proceeded on a trial for Australian A-league side Central Coast Mariners. He starred in several friendlies, scoring a brace in one of them. With this, it almost seemed like it was on the cards for Bolt to begin another fairy tale profession, even if it wasn’t at the highest level he aspired for it to be.

At the stroke of 32 with his future seemingly set in the A-league, Bolt said: “I’m here to push myself and learn as much as possible.

“I’m just going to put the work in, but at the end of the day it’s the coach’s decision. I’m just here to do my best.

“Now I have the opportunity to play with a top team and show what I can do.”

Despite his appearances, the Mariners and seemingly Bolt himself, were not keen on each other, and the move dematerialised. He went on to reject an offer made by Maltese outfit Valletta.  Admittedly, Bolt was left frustrated.

“I think I didn’t get a fair chance,” Bolt told World Wide Sports in an interview.

“I didn’t do it how I wanted to do it, but it’s something I think I would’ve been good at. But it’s just one of those things you miss out on and just have to move on.”

“I do think about it sometimes that it didn’t work out the way that I wanted it to, because football is something that I love. The fact that it didn’t work out I do think about it, but as I said, it’s one of those things you’ve got to move past.”

Earlier in 2020, Bolt’s partner Kasi Bennett gave birth to their daughter, Olympia Lightning Bolt, and the footballer told 9 News Australia that he was contented with his life.

“Being a parent now, it’s different. It gives you a sense of accomplishment so I’m really happy and just excited to go on this journey.”

Bolt also expressed this year of his desire to return to his original scene in time for the Tokyo Olympics, which has now been tabled to 2021.

“My coach said to me, ‘No’,” Bolt explained.

“I remember when I was going to retire he said, ‘Listen to me, when you retire, you retire — you’re not doing a comeback tour’. And then when I actually went to him and said, ‘Hey coach what do you think? Let’s go try for 2020’, he said, ‘No, we’re not doing it.”

“I thought about it, but it was not on the cards for my coach.”

Bolt has reiterated since then that the birth of his daughter has given him perspective on his achievements, and ultimately on his decision to not go through with the comeback.

In spite of feeling ‘too old’ to return, he still maintains that the competitiveness in him has and will always be the main driver.

“If someone beats me I want to play again,” he says of playing online games.

“I kind of knew when I was going to retire so I mentally got myself ready, and I still do a lot of work, and try to keep my hand in different businesses here and there. I’m happy.”

(On his daughter, Olympia, following in his footsteps) “Everybody is already asking, ‘Is she going to run?’ But I won’t push her to do any sports. She can do whatever she wants, I’m just here to support.”