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Posts Tagged ‘Summer Olympics’

Leading Issues in the News: Zika

When the 2016 Summer Olympic games were awarded to Rio de Janeiro in 2009, the Zika virus was not on anyone’s mind. Instead, Rio faced concerns about crime, corruption, pollution and if the Olympic venues would be completed in time. That changed in May 2015 with the confirmation of the first case of Zika in Brazil. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus a public health emergency in February 2016 and warned it would continue to spread throughout Latin America and worldwide.

2016 Summer Olympics opening ceremony

2016 Summer Olympics opening ceremony. Olympic rings adorn Maracana Stadium for the opening ceremony of the 2016 Games. By Fernando Frazao/Agencia Brasil via Wikimedia Commons.

The Zika outbreak raised concerns and fears about the impact on athletes and visitors. In May 2016, a group of doctors and scientists called on the WHO to have an open discussion on the risk of holding the Olympics in Brazil. The WHO declined the request and stated postponing, cancelling, or changing the location of the Olympics would not alter the spread of the Zika virus. A number of athletes pulled out of the Olympics citing concerns over Zika. However, for many athletes, their dreams of competing in the Olympic games outweighed the potential risks of contracting the Zika virus.

Now that the Games have ended and athletes and tourists have returned to their home countries, questions remain over the long-term effects of Zika. How many people were infected with the virus? Will they transmit the virus worldwide? Researchers estimate that for every 100,000 visitors to Rio, only 3 will be infected. But that is just an estimate. Will babies who are born in nine months suffer birth defects related to Zika infection? The world will just have to wait to find out the answers to these questions.

In the meantime, you can turn to SIRS Issues Researcher for in-depth coverage of the Zika virus. Zika is given the Leading Issues treatment and asks users the Essential Question, “Should pregnancy be postponed in areas where Zika is present.” Various viewpoints and background information are provided.

Will you be discussing Zika and the Olympics in your classroom? Comment below or Tweet us at #ProQuest.

The 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics

1936 Summer Olympics Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

1936 Summer Olympics Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

For the past two weeks all eyes have been fixed on the 31st Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro‎, Brazil.  More than 11,500 athletes from 207 countries including a Refugee Olympic Team participated in 28 sports earning 306 sets of medals.  The diversity represented and celebrated at these Olympic Games harks back to an Olympiad where similar diversity was not celebrated and was almost stifled.

Eighty years ago in 1936 the Olympic Games were held in Berlin, Germany.  Three years prior the Nazis had taken control of the country under the leadership of Adolf Hitler.   The games had been awarded in 1931 to the democratic Weimar Republic government, and the Nazi government did not want to host them.  Joseph Goebbels, the German propaganda minister, persuaded Hitler the games could be exploited to further Nazi ideology in Germany and throughout the world.

The “Nazi Olympics” as the Berlin games came to be known were surrounded by racial and political tensions.  A year before the games the Nuremberg Race Laws had stripped Jews of their German citizenship.  Citizens in the United States and Europe called for a boycott.  Hitler agreed to allow Jewish athletes to participate to appease the International Olympic Committee who threatened to move the games to Rome or Tokyo.  Jewish athletes were indeed allowed to try out, but most were disallowed to compete due to technicalities.  In the end, only one Jewish athlete, fencer Helene Mayer, reluctantly competed for Germany in the 1936 Olympics.  She was tall and blond and declared an “honorary Aryan.”

Jesse Owens Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

Jesse Owens Research Topic via ProQuest eLibrary

One of the stars of the Berlin games was African American track and field athlete, Jesse Owens.  Owens won four gold medals, set world records and gained international fame.  He also challenged the notion of Aryan supremacy.  A story that is often told is that Adolf Hitler was so angered by the success of Jesse Owens that he refused to shake Owens’ hand after his 100-meter victory.  However, this is a myth.  Hitler stopped inviting winners to his personal box fearing some of those winners would be black.  Instead, Owens said the Fuhrer waved to him.  Franklin D. Roosevelt, the American president, never congratulated the gold medal winner.  It was, unfortunately, still a time of racial segregation in the United States.

The Nazi propaganda machine was in full force using the Olympic games to promote “Aryan racial superiority” and physical skill.  In the end, the Nazi campaign was successful despite the accomplishments of Jesse Owens and other African American athletes.  Germany won the most medals with 89, eclipsing the United States which won 56.  The 1936 Olympic Games were the first to be televised.  Foreign visitors who attended the Olympic games came away with a positive impression of Germany and the Nazi regime.  However, these would be the last Olympic games for 12 years as World War II would start three years later with the German invasion of Poland.

 

 

Loving the LOVE at the Olympics!

Brazilian Flag and Olympic Logo

Brazilian Flag and Olympic Logo (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons [Public Domain])

What makes the Olympics so beloved?

Perhaps it is because we, the spectators, are satiated with incredible competition and mind-blowing athleticism.

Perhaps it is because we enjoy witnessing the thrill of victory…and yes, even the agony of defeat.

Perhaps it is because we want to feel as if we are a part of something magnificent, something bigger than ourselves, something shared with most of the world.

Perhaps it is because we are inspired by the edited Olympic coverage of athletes’ personal lives…our heartstrings are pulled and our own dreams come into focus–if only for a moment.

But I think there is something more that keeps us watching, keeps us coming back, keeps us gratified. Something absolutely grand.

Joy. Harmony. Peace. LOVE.

Open hearts abound during the Olympic Games. Like when…

Michael Phelps hugged his teammate Caeleb Dressel, the young swimmer who was overcome with emotion after their team won the gold in the Men’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay.

…gymnast Louis Smith of Great Britain sincerely congratulated gymnast Alexander Naddour of the United States for winning the bronze medal in pommel horse.

…Jen Kish, the team captain of Canada’s women’s rugby team, found her father in the stands after the team’s bronze-medal win.

…gymnast Laurie Hernandez of the United States held up her team-winning gold medal to her father…and he ecstatically and emotionally fist-pumped back to her.

Filipina weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz celebrated with her coach, Alfonsito Aldanete, after her second lift of the competition. She won the silver medal.

…gymnasts Diego Hypolito and Arthur Mariano of Brazil tearfully and exuberantly rejoiced after winning silver and bronze for their floor routines, respectively.

…Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa set the world record in the men’s 400m–and we watched his 74-year-old great-grandmother (who is his coach) celebrating in the stands. And then larger-than-life runner Usain Bolt congratulated him.

These astonishingly genuine moments are, simply put, human moments. They transcend the thrill of victory…these moments are sincere human connections, which is what makes them so gratifying to witness.

They are why I watch the Olympics.

How about you? What keeps bringing you back to the Olympic Games?

SKS and SIRS Discoverer honor the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with Spotlights of the Month, featuring articles and Web sites on Olympic history, athletes, and moments. Join us in celebrating this international event.