Madrid misery amidst Turkish delight

Members of the Tokyo 2020 delegation celebrate after Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Olympic Games during the 125th IOC session in Buenos Aires, Argentina,  Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. Tokyo defeated Istanbul in the final round of secret voting Saturday by the International Olympic Committee. Madrid was eliminated earlier after an initial tie with Istanbul. (AP Photo/Ian Watson, Pool)
Members of the Tokyo 2020 delegation celebrate after Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Olympic Games during the 125th IOC session in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Tokyo defeated Istanbul in the final round of secret voting. Madrid was eliminated earlier after an initial tie with Istanbul. (AP Photo/Ian Watson, Pool)


Rafael Nadal made rather short work of his US Open semi-final. But the man from Mallorca was left wondering what his country had to do in order to get the Olympic Games nod. Nadal flew past France’s Richard Gasquet in about two hours but was abruptly halted by the news of Madrid losing the bid to host the Games for the third time in as many tries. Rafa was not alone.

As the news crept out from Buenos Aires that the Spanish capital had been voted out, thousands broke down in front of Puerta de Alcalá, one of the city’s landmarks. However, Istanbul was bouncing with joy. It seemed that losing to Tokyo worked well for the faithful in Turkey. They rejoiced to loss, as any other would have done for a win, for the hoax of a peaceful nation was what the Turkish delegation was selling. They failed and rather miserably. Turkey was perhaps using the Olympics bid, in an attempt to mask several environmental violations and initiate large-scale construction in central parts of the city.

IOC president Count Jacques Rogge greets Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe | Image:
IOC president Count Jacques Rogge greets Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe | Image:

Turkey tried to woo the International Olympic Committee (IOC) with pictures of athletes crossing the Bosphorus Bridge from Asia to Europe, affectively uniting in two continents. It would have become the first predominately Muslim country to host the Games, and was a heavy favourite among the bookmakers. The IOC, and in relative terms FIFA as well, were award hosting rights to countries and cities that had never hosted any major tournament. Rio de Janeiro was handpicked by the IOC to carry the Olympic baton into the third world in 2016 shortly after FIFA chose Brazil as the host nation for the football World Cup in 2014. The situation was different in 2009 when Brazil’s economy was one of the few to hit just minor bumps in the global financial crisis. But the world soon recovered and spelt bad news for all developing countries, Brazil included. FIFA President Joseph Blatter was already quoted regretting his decision to choose the country after thousands of protest and scuffles marred the Confederations Cup earlier this year.

The gap between awarding hosting rights and the actual Games was perhaps what the members looked at. That was where Istanbul’s flaw lied. Inevitable protests would have scarred constructions and even the Games in 2020. The Committee could not afford that. Moreover $19 billion would have been poured in for the Games.  It was an investment far too large under the present market gloom, specifically when Athens and Greece is still reeling from their over expansive budget in 2004. The country is  now one of the worst economies in the Euro zone.

Contrastingly, Madrid seemed all fine. They had 80% of the infrastructure ready, some of which were prepared for the 2008 bid. Sporting icons such as Paul Gasol and even FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi were flying the Madrid mast high. Sadly, the country’s grim economy proved to be the decisive factor. Spain has its highest population unemployed ever since the World Wars and recession has hit its people hard, so much so that once affordable football tickets are a luxury now.

Moreover, the two countries were severely stuck in the doping muck that crept up in the panel presentation just before the voting. Turkey had just recently banned over 200 athletes who had tested positive for banned substances. Meanwhile, a Spanish judge had ordered that thousands of blood samples collected from a ‘doping doctor’ be destroyed before the World Anti-Doping Agency got their hands on them. The doctor had alleged that he was providing plasma to several “top athletes” from football, tennis and even motorsports.

That being said, Tokyo promised to clean up its nuclear spill and provide the world its best Games ever. It has the budget, it has the experience from the ’64 Games and it definitely has the economy. The Nikkei dropped to its lowest after the Sendai earthquake and tsunami in 2011, but Japan still recovered, and recovered well. In a climate of global gloom, here was country and a city that showed signs of clear weather, free of turmoil. Tokyo was indeed the IOC’s best choice. All it has to do now, is live up to expectations.

Is it that time already?

Switzerland's Roger Federer reacts during a break during his Swiss Open second round tennis match against Germany's Daniel Brands in Gstaad. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
Switzerland’s Roger Federer reacts during a break during his Swiss Open second round tennis match against Germany’s Daniel Brands in Gstaad. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Tennis can be very unforgiving to its champions at times. If on one had it inspired a war-torn Serb to conquer all odds and rise to the zenith of tennis’ Olympus, it can taunt and squat a legend’s desire to carry on. Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have had contrasting lives growing up. Where the Swiss took up tennis as a passion, for Djokovic it was an escape from a harsh reality of guns and death. Yet their mannerism in dominating men’s tennis is strikingly similar, yet subtly different.

At 26 years of age, Roger Federer’s foothold on tennis immortality was so strong that he was adjudged a synonym for that feat. His 11 Grand Slam wins were brief lessons for his opponents, where they were being tutored by the Grandmaster himself. We watched him nonchalantly perform shots that certainly no other human being was capable of performing. The term “Federer Moments” was coined and YouTube was flooded with replays of instances from games where Roger Federer made eyes pop and chins sag.

Those moments appear a long forgotten memory now was Federer walks into Flushing Meadows, seeded outside the top four for the first time in a decade. A year ago, at 30 years of age, he was defying all odds. London was toasting their greatest Wimbledon champion. Thirteen months on the 32-year-old’s magic run seems a distant fable. The Roger Federer of 2013 is a mere reflection of his former self on a shattered window-pane. His resilient spirit and hunger to succeed did not change, his on-court attitude and racquet size did.

In Melbourne earlier this year, few saw a side of the former No. 1 that was buried deep into those delicate backhand crosscourt winners and his tantalizingly tempered childhood. Federer’s outburst at an unflinching Andy Murray was surprising as it was obvious. His extravagant smash at Wimbledon squarely aimed at a hapless Sergiy Stakhovsky was another rare moment of expression. The Swiss famously lost that match to the 116th ranked Ukrainian, and went on to provide even more surprises.

His appearances in the unfortunately named ‘Bet-at- Home’ Open in Hamburg, Germany and at the Swiss Open in Gstaad were buzzing with tales about his new racquet. Federer exchanged his prized 90-square-inch frame for a regular 98-square-inch one like the ones Nadal or Djokovic were using. He was once again beaten by players ranked far below him.

Age was never a barrier to success in tennis. Sampras, Agassi and Laver all won majors after crossing 30. But the game has turned brutal and physically demanding. For the better part of a decade, Federer enthralled audiences with nuances of a perfect game. As the US Open progresses, the world is abuzz with questions of his inevitable end. The answers as they say are blowing in the dry, salty Atlantic winds gliding over Arthur Ashe stadium.

Beautiful no more

In 1950, the state of Michigan in the Mid-Western belt of the USA was doing rather well. It saw the most number of migrations after World War II from Europe. It was home to the automobile industry, housing the likes of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. The state was the musical hub; birth place of Motown. It had the wheat, the debonair, the wealthy cities and, amazingly contributed about 36% of the GNP…. of the world.

130719105132-n-detroit-bankruptcy-00004529-620x348On Thursday, the 18th of July, as the markets here in Asia were closing, faint news trickled in about a bankruptcy. As much as $18 billion was summed. But what made the headlines that evening was not a company or an organization. Rather, a city. The metropolitan of Detroit filed for a bankruptcy, failing to pay its municipal bills. The city hired more employees than it could pay for.

On Thursday, July 18, 2013 Detroit became the largest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy when State-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr asked a federal judge for municipal bankruptcy protection. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, FILE)
On Thursday, July 18, 2013 Detroit became the largest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy when State-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr asked a federal judge for municipal bankruptcy protection. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, FILE)

The symptoms of an economic meltdown were visible long before terms like mortgage or insurance began to make headlines in American newspapers. Detroit showed the signs quite later. By then, the disease had spread and treatment was impossible. The steady decline of the automobile industry began in the 1980’s, when a combination of high oil prices and increased competition from foreign auto manufacturers severely affected the companies. In the ensuing years, the companies periodically bounced back, but by 2008 the industry was in turmoil at crisis. As a result, General Motors and Chrysler filed bankruptcy reorganization and were bailed out with loans and investments from the federal government.

So how does the failure of an industry affect a prosperous city? The truth was, that it should not have. The Big Three launched operations in parts of the country where steel and coal were available nearby, hence saving transportation costs. Factory outlets were minimized in Detroit, leading to loss of jobs. People were looking to other cities in search of new avenues. Between 2000 and 2010, nearly 250,000 people left the city. Collectively, the city lost 1.5 million of its inhabitants since its peak in 1958. That is the current population of Chandigarh. Detroit was still not lost then. It still had its people, its government and its administration. Sadly, they too, failed.

Crime rate in Detroit is five times the national average. The police response time to a call is 58 minutes. In New York City, it is just 8. The NYPD can rescue you from a potential sun-burn. One-third of the ambulances in Detroit are out of service. The city owes $2 billion in pensions. It transformed from being the “Engine” of America to falling into the “Rust Belt”. We could blame poor management of the city for these figures, and so we should.

State-appointed Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr justified the bankruptcy.
State-appointed Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr justified the bankruptcy. | Image Courtesy:

As we await a judge’s ruling on the declaration of bankruptcy, economists all over the world are asking whether or not Barack Obama will bail out the city. After all, GM and Chrysler were. Shouldn’t the people be rescued too? In that case, it would grant an asset of security to all failing city administrations in the USA, the likes of which feature New Orleans and Atlantic City. They would continue bad governance on the surety that they would be brought bank from the brink too. That would mean taking honest money from taxpayers. The US government is already in a debt of about $17 trillion. Bailing Detroit out would be a bad idea.

What lies ahead for America’s once most proud city? Well, we all love to see a success story. How we could wish that unlike so many of Hollywood’s finest movies, heroes would emerge to clean up the city’s mess. Indeed Detroit would resemble an ideal Gotham to Batman, waiting to be rescued. In real life though, the Dark Knight might never come. There has to be many knights in shining armour, not afraid to take back the city. It needs its people, the ones who left and the ones who stayed back.

In 2009, rapper Eminem based his song “Beautiful” on the city of Detroit. He sang, “Don’t let them tell you ain’t beautiful”. It is one of his most watched videos on YouTube. Pity, the viewers probably watch Mathers singing in shambled alleys and broken-down factories, rapping about his ill-fated life. The visuals are not a studio. That is Detroit, empty and vacant. A city lost, beautiful no more.


Kings of the Caribbean

Port of Spain: Needing 15 to win of the last over, MS Dhoni hit two sixes and a boundary to steer India to a thrilling victory over Sri Lanka. India’s captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni dragged his side to a pulsating one-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in the final of the Tri-Nation Series at Queen’s Park Oval on Thursday.

Returning to the team after seeming to be ruled out from the rest of the tournament with a hamstring injury eleven days ago, the inspirational wicketkeeper-batsman smashed 16 runs off three deliveries in the final over, bowled by Shaminda Eranga, to take the tournament favourites to 203 for nine in reply to Sri Lanka’s 201 all out off 48.5 overs.

Less than three weeks after lifting the Champions Trophy to add to the World Cup title of 2011, Dhoni held a rapidly imploding innings together in compiling an unbeaten 45, carting the hapless Eranga for a six, a four and then a six off successive deliveries.

“I thought I could target the bowler in that last over because he’s not as experienced as some of the others,” said the India captain.

“I didn’t want to take any chances against someone like a (Lasith) Malinga or a (Angelo) Mathews. I think I’m just blessed with good cricketing sense.”

Last-man Ishant Sharma was only required to survive at the other end and managed to achieve just that, although there were a few anxious moments between his arrival at the crease at 182 for nine and when the captain took responsibility to win the match on his own in the final over.

India were actually cruising along at 139 for three in the 32nd over in the best weather of the tournament.

But the dismissal of Suresh Raina triggered a collapse which saw four wickets falling for 13 runs, left-arm spinner Rangana Herath turning the screws with two wickets in two balls to finish with the best figures of four for 20.

Opening batsman Rohit Sharma’s top score of 58 was inevitably overshadowed by Dhoni’s heroics.

Sri Lanka endured an even more calamitous collapse after they were put in at the start of the day, losing their last eight wickets for 30 runs after at one stage being promisingly poised at 171 for two in the 38th over.

A 122-run second-wicket partnership between Kumar Sangakkara (71) and Lahiru Thirimanne (46) had placed their side in that excellent position.

However a succession of injudicious shots saw batsman after batsman gifting his wicket away.

Dhoni marshalled his forces superbly while effecting three stumpings and playing his part in strangling the opposition when they would have been expected to be flourishing and racing towards a formidable total.

Ravindra Jadeja benefited most from the rash of indiscretions, claiming four for 23 with his left-arm spin.

“We kept taking wrong options because if we had batted properly we would have gotten 230-240,” said a rueful Sri Lanka captain Mathews in reflecting on another opportunity for silverware lost.

“I’m really proud of the boys with the way we fought in defence of a small total though.”

Sangakkara’s wicket was key to India wresting the initiative from their very familiar opponents for he played with assurance and excellent awareness until the urgency of the batting power-play triggered the risky stroke that brought about his demise to a good catch at mid-on by Vinay Kumar.

Kumar’s namesake, Bhuvneshwar, made the early strikes for India on a bright, humid morning with the wickets of openers Upul Tharanga and Mahela Jayawardene, the former captain falling for 22 in his 400th One-Day International.

[With inputs from]

‘British’ & Proud

Clockwise: Andy Murray, Chirs Fromme, Kevin Pietersen, Rory McIlroy
Clockwise from the top: Andy Murray, Chirs Fromme, Kevin Pietersen, Rory McIlroy

Ever since the summer of 2005, the English Isles have been looking for a reason to go berserk over sports once again. That fabled June, the English cricket team accomplished one of the greatest feats the game of cricket had ever seen – dismantling a full-strength Australia. For the first time, children were seen adorning the ‘Flintoff’ jersey more than a ‘Beckham’ and the English chants began to roar. English, mind you.

That summer England welcomed players lost to international boundaries into their squads, television sets and victory celebrations with open arms. Cricketing prodigy Kevin Pietersen and some Andrew Strauss were South African’s they said. ‘Not from their mother’s side’, echoed London. Simon Jones was Welsh. ‘Isn’t that England too?’ claimed the optimist. Come 2013, England are having their moment on top of the sporting pinnacle. But how much of English is there?

First off, Britain was dancing to the merry chants of the British and Irish Lions squad wreaking havoc in Sydney with their splendid win over Australia in the recently concluded rugby test series. In their 37-man squad, only 10 were Englishmen. The Lions were led by a Welshman in Sam Warburton. The jubilation across the Iles belonged to London. For the people in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Dublin this victory was a cruel reminded of how the English monarchy still refused to identify their demands for sovereignty. However, the modern-day sports blogger will boast on how the Lions brought a much needed unity in the region. (Perhaps, some members of the British Parliament should encourage the IRA to read more of those posts.)

Last week, Scot Andy Murray (patronised as Britain’s saviour), lifted the coveted trophy in South-West London, emulating Fred Perry’s conquest in 1936. So moved was the crowd at Wimbledon, that the banners proudly fluttered ‘Sir(?) Andy Murray, Thank you.’ In the midst of it all, Virginia Wade was forgotten.  Many of the headlines around the world have blared out sentiments like “Andy Murray wins Wimbledon, ends 77-year British drought” and “Inspired Murray ends 77 years of British hurt.” However, let’s not forget that 2013 may mark the first time a British ‘man’ has won in 77 years, but the last time a Brit won a singles title at their home Grand Slam tournament was actually just 36 years ago. In 1977, the popular Englishwoman Virginia Wade finally put a crucial win at the end of a frustrating “try-try-again” story even longer than Andy Murray’s. Yet, even the Queen must have forgotten that she presented the trophy to Wade, or else David Cameron wouldn’t have streamed his tears on Twitter, apparently in awe of Murray.

Britain still has a lot to celebrate for. Whether it is South-African born Chris Fromme leading the centennial Tour de France, or the long awaited return of ‘England’s best batsman’ in Natal-born and raised KP, the English chants of ‘Come on!’ will surely be heard all around. England without doubt has one of the best sporting crowds who view every game with the same zeal and passion as they do the last one.

Whether it’s Murray, Fromme, Pieterson or even Rory McIlroy, everyone in Abbey Road to Buckingham Palace will say that all of them are well and truly British, and ever so proud to be one. This Kingdom is definitely ‘United’ and it is the common sports-lover who can be held responsible for it.

Gehlot being framed on Facebook: Congress

Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot | Image:

The Pradesh Congress Committee [PCC] in Rajasthan, hit back on Wednesday against the remarks made by the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP]. A day after Gehlot was accused by the BJP of buying ‘Likes’ for his official Facebook page the state department’s IT team launched a full-scale investigation into the matter.

A BJP spokesperson claimed that the chief minister’s official Facebook page ‘Apka Mukhyamantri‘ (Your Chief Minister) had 1,69,077 likes till June one and it shot up to to 2,14,639 by June 30.”This is a ‘social media scam’ involving Gehlot. Some IT companies sell fake ‘Likes’ and it is apparent with its sudden rise that unfair practice to gain popularity on Facebook was involved,” party spokesperson Jyoti Kiran said in a statement.

While the chief minister [CM] himself refrained from speaking out over the debacle, other members from his party alleged the BJP of sabotage. “The BJP is obsessed with its social media image and we are certain that it (the Likes from Istanbul) is their doing”, PCC spokesperson Archana Sharma claimed. “We suspect the BJP must have got some IT firms to do this at an attempt to frame the CM.”

Several officials who were in-charge of handling Gehlot’s Facebook account and even some of his blogs, that the sharp influx of ‘Likes’ left them surprised as well. Most of these ‘Likes’ seemed to have originated from Istanbul in Turkey. In an official statement, Lokesh Sharma, administrator of Gehlot’s official page on Facebook said, “There is no connection between the number of  ‘Likes’ and ‘People talking about this’ features.” He also said that the latter showed the number of people visiting the page and was not directly related to the Likes. “People anywhere in the world can visit the page. One need not buy likes from Istanbul to be the most talked about person.

Wimbledon: A preview

It has been exactly a year since the four top-ranked players in men’s tennis took part together in the same Grand Slam. A sprained knee had kept fifth-seeded Rafael Nadal out of last year’s US Open and this year’s opener in Melbourne. But the Spaniard is back with a bang, fresh from his Roland Garros victory. British Olympic Gold medalist Andy Murray is back too, after missing the French Open. The Scot is still looking to become the first Brit since Fred Perry in 1936 to win the singles title at SW19.

In the women’s draw, all fingers may point to a potential final between defending champion Serena Williams and world no. 2 Maria Sharapova. The two women were already exchanging a volley of words in the media, and will look to settle it out on the grass.

With the draws oddly stacked up for the gentlemen and fairly unsurprisingly for the ladies, here’s what to ‘not’ expect at this year’s Wimbledon:

1. Do not expect a miracle from the Swiss Maestro: As much as we all love fairy tales and Roger Federer even more, this is one thing we should not expect from the third-seeded defending champion. If age and fitness wasn’t enough, the draw betrayed him too, placing him in the bottom half along side Murray, Nadal and the man who beat him in Paris, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. To win this year, Federer would have to overcome a possible quarter-final with Nadal, semis against Murray and likely final against Novak Djokovic.

2. Djokovic to be surprised? Not likely: The world number one will probably have an easy run all the way to the semis, where he might face David Ferrer. A possible 2nd Wimbledon crown looks likely.

3. Murray to rescue Britain –  not this year: If the shoulder injury had healed, the draw would have been much more hurtful. With Nadal nearing his prime (again) and the threat of Federer always there, Murray might have to overcome his own mental barriers to emerge successful in his half.

4. Someone stoping Serena: The younger Williams sister looks fresher than ever and (more importantly) dangerous than ever. The spectators in Roland Garros and all over the world were testimony to perhaps the biggest force in women’s tennis at the moment. Serena’s demolition of Sara Errani in the semis and complete overpowering of Sharapova in the finals, would make her any bookmakers favourite.

Overall, this year thousands of spectators will line up outside the gates of SW19 to catch even a glimpse of their favourite player. Every year, Wimbledon carries a very romantic sentiment with it; last summer’s men’s final was one such case. All we can do is wait and watch to who gets their names engraved on the wall in tennis’ most prestigious event.