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The Olympics are and have always been political. They have lent legitimacy to repressive states like China and the former USSR and made a mockery of freedom in Mexico. The Nazis used the 1936 Olympics to present an image of a peaceful and tolerant Germany. Now, 77 years later, there is an ominous parallel with the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

In less than three months, the Winter Olympics will begin, but I won’t be watching because of the anti-gay laws passed by the Putin regime. These laws ban “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.” Even among the Russians, it’s unclear what this exactly means, but people could be arrested for giving pro-gay speeches, discussing homosexuality or even holding the hand of a same sex friend. (I suspect this posting also breaks the law.) Violators face fines, imprisonment, and deportation. Already Russia’s crackdown on gays has seen it ban gay pride parades, arrest hundreds of people protesting the laws, and outlaw adoptions by same-sex couples. 


In effect, Russia has given the green light for hate, bigotry, and aggression of the country’s LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community. In recent months, there have been attacks and even violent murders against gays, including 23-year-old Vladislav Tornovoi, whose killers raped him with beer bottles and then killed him by smashing his head.

At a time when most western countries are recognizing the rights of gay people, Russia is taking a giant step backward. A civilized world cannot tolerate Russia’s behavior and should condemn it for denying its citizens basic human dignity. Moreover, Olympic sponsors and broadcasting networks share in Russia’s culpability. Sitting back idly is tacit acceptance of Russia’s actions and can lead to more repression and persecution of gay people in the future. If Russia’s laws today were targeted against the Jews, as the Nazis did in Germany, would we support the Olympics?

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The Olympics are and have always been political. They have lent legitimacy to repressive states like China and the former USSR and made a mockery of freedom in Mexico. The Nazis used the 1936 Olympics to present an image of a peaceful and tolerant Germany. Now, 77 years later, there is an ominous parallel with the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

In less than three months, the Winter Olympics will begin, but I won’t be watching because of the anti-gay laws passed by the Putin regime. These laws ban “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.” Even among the Russians, it’s unclear what this exactly means, but people could be arrested for giving pro-gay speeches, discussing homosexuality or even holding the hand of a same sex friend. (I suspect this posting also breaks the law.) Violators face fines, imprisonment, and deportation. Already Russia’s crackdown on gays has seen it ban gay pride parades, arrest hundreds of people protesting the laws, and outlaw adoptions by same-sex couples. 


In effect, Russia has given the green light for hate, bigotry, and aggression of the country’s LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community. In recent months, there have been attacks and even violent murders against gays, including 23-year-old Vladislav Tornovoi, whose killers raped him with beer bottles and then killed him by smashing his head.

At a time when most western countries are recognizing the rights of gay people, Russia is taking a giant step backward. A civilized world cannot tolerate Russia’s behavior and should condemn it for denying its citizens basic human dignity. Moreover, Olympic sponsors and broadcasting networks share in Russia’s culpability. Sitting back idly is tacit acceptance of Russia’s actions and can lead to more repression and persecution of gay people in the future. If Russia’s laws today were targeted against the Jews, as the Nazis did in Germany, would we support the Olympics?

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff
demonstrating the Caxirola

Move over Vuvuzela, Brazil has introduced the Caxirola, a small percussion instrument that will be used at next year’s World Cup. Made of recycled plastic, the Caxirola produces a harmonious rattling sound when shaken.

Is the Vuvuzela a Thing of the Past?

As you may recall, the Vuvuzela became a symbol of the 2010 World Cup. It was also controversial when its loud buzzing sound annoyed football fans around the world. The 3-foot plastic horn reportedly put out an ear-aching 127 decibels of sound. And when thousands of them were blown at the same time, players and viewers had trouble hearing the announcements. The sport’s governing board, FIFA, even considered banning the Vuvuzela from stadiums after studies suggested it could cause permanent hearing loss. By contrast, the meek Caxirola is said to be soft and pleasant sounding. 

Germany is out of the 2012 European Football Championships. They lost to Italy in an exciting semi-final game 1:2. The Italians will now face the Spanish in the final.

Wow, what a surprising result! No one saw this coming. I was on the edge of my seat. Everybody assumed the Germans would have a cakewalk on the way to the championship. Just goes to show, never take anything for granted. Overconfidence can be your worst enemy. The passionate Italian team made few errors as opposed to the unusually shaky Germans.

At the end of the game, the neighborhood was creepily quiet: no car horns, no firecrackers going off, no singing in the streets, and no cheering. You could hear a pin drop. Everyone was stunned. I’m not a betting man, but I’ll put my money on the Spanish. 

Mario Balotelli: Scored twice, giving Italy the Win.





Germany is out of the 2012 European Football Championships. They lost to Italy in an exciting semi-final game 1:2. The Italians will now face the Spanish in the final.

Wow, what a surprising result! No one saw this coming. I was on the edge of my seat. Everybody assumed the Germans would have a cakewalk on the way to the championship. Just goes to show, never take anything for granted. Overconfidence can be your worst enemy. The passionate Italian team made few errors as opposed to the unusually shaky Germans.

At the end of the game, the neighborhood was creepily quiet: no car horns, no firecrackers going off, no singing in the streets, and no cheering. You could hear a pin drop. Everyone was stunned. I’m not a betting man, but I’ll put my money on the Spanish. 

Mario Balotelli: Scored twice, giving Italy the Win.





The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA Euro) Championship 2012 (aka, the European Football Championship) begins this Friday, and the German national team is the clear cut favorite going into the tournament. Poland and the Ukraine are hosting. Earlier in the year, some nations considered boycotting the tournament over the political turmoil in the Ukraine, but that seems to have evaporated. 

Germany was perfect in the qualifying stage, going 10-0. Their likely opponent in the final is Spain, the 2010 World Cup winner. Other teams to watch are the Netherlands, Greece, and France. If I was a betting man, I would put my money on the Dutch team. They’ve been struggling lately with a 3-0 loss to the German team; but they’re deep in talent, and they learn from their mistakes. They nearly took the 2010 World Cup. 

Berlin is going crazy in preparation for the Championship. Football mania abounds with shops selling hats, flags, horns and other football paraphernalia. Restaurants, pubs, and cafés are getting out their big screen TVs, and the Fanmeile is being set up in the Tiergarten, Berlin’s version of NYC’s Central Park. The Fanmeile will no doubt cause all kinds of traffic problems as it did during the World Cup. 
The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA Euro) Championship 2012 (aka, the European Football Championship) begins this Friday, and the German national team is the clear cut favorite going into the tournament. Poland and the Ukraine are hosting. Earlier in the year, some nations considered boycotting the tournament over the political turmoil in the Ukraine, but that seems to have evaporated. 

Germany was perfect in the qualifying stage, going 10-0. Their likely opponent in the final is Spain, the 2010 World Cup winner. Other teams to watch are the Netherlands, Greece, and France. If I was a betting man, I would put my money on the Dutch team. They’ve been struggling lately with a 3-0 loss to the German team; but they’re deep in talent, and they learn from their mistakes. They nearly took the 2010 World Cup. 

Berlin is going crazy in preparation for the Championship. Football mania abounds with shops selling hats, flags, horns and other football paraphernalia. Restaurants, pubs, and cafés are getting out their big screen TVs, and the Fanmeile is being set up in the Tiergarten, Berlin’s version of NYC’s Central Park. The Fanmeile will no doubt cause all kinds of traffic problems as it did during the World Cup. 
Well, it’s another night of World Cup madness in Berlin:  Germany vs. Spain. Germany is the slight favorite to go all the way. Should they beat Spain, they will face the Netherlands this Sunday for the championship.  The Netherlands will be a formidable opponent.  They haven’t lost a game the entire tournament.  Every bar and restaurant will be full as crowds view the game on big screen TVs.  I don’t expect the noise and activity to stop until well past midnight, including the noise from those annoying vuvuzeIas.  It seems that the Friedrichshain neighborhood is ground zero for football fans, my street in particular.

A side note:  Last night, I was on the subway (my bicycle was in the repair shop), and there were a group of young people engaged in a lively conversation.  I usually don’t eavesdrop, but I had forgot my reading material and had nothing better to do.

Now, I wouldn’t call myself fluent, but I can understand a normal German conversation.  In the case of these young people, I couldn’t understand one word they were using.  I began to think:  Did I need to take another German language course or was it worse?  Was this the beginning of Alzheimer’s?  It was only after a great deal of effort and concentration that I determined the topic of the conversation:  the World Cup.  What else!

I discussed this event with a German friend, and she assured me that I wasn’t suffering from a loss of mental capacity.  She said that even she had trouble understanding certain German accents. For foreigners, like myself, the thick Berlin accent, rapid speaking, and use of slang, all contributed to my incomprehension. What a relief!


Well, it’s another night of World Cup madness in Berlin:  Germany vs. Spain. Germany is the slight favorite to go all the way. Should they beat Spain, they will face the Netherlands this Sunday for the championship.  The Netherlands will be a formidable opponent.  They haven’t lost a game the entire tournament.  Every bar and restaurant will be full as crowds view the game on big screen TVs.  I don’t expect the noise and activity to stop until well past midnight, including the noise from those annoying vuvuzeIas.  It seems that the Friedrichshain neighborhood is ground zero for football fans, my street in particular.

A side note:  Last night, I was on the subway (my bicycle was in the repair shop), and there were a group of young people engaged in a lively conversation.  I usually don’t eavesdrop, but I had forgot my reading material and had nothing better to do.

Now, I wouldn’t call myself fluent, but I can understand a normal German conversation.  In the case of these young people, I couldn’t understand one word they were using.  I began to think:  Did I need to take another German language course or was it worse?  Was this the beginning of Alzheimer’s?  It was only after a great deal of effort and concentration that I determined the topic of the conversation:  the World Cup.  What else!

I discussed this event with a German friend, and she assured me that I wasn’t suffering from a loss of mental capacity.  She said that even she had trouble understanding certain German accents. For foreigners, like myself, the thick Berlin accent, rapid speaking, and use of slang, all contributed to my incomprehension. What a relief!


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You can’t escape it.  Here is a photo of a group of Portuguese fans at Cafe Lisboa in Wilmersdorf enjoying the Portugal (7) – North Korea (0) game. Poor North Korea, nothing seems to go well for them.