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Blog post of the month: Doing good against all odds – remembering the forgotten

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. In February 2017, the featured blog post is "Doing good against all odds – remembering the forgotten" by Leszek J. Sibilski.

The opportunity for doing mischief is found a hundred times a day, and of doing good once in a year. - Voltaire
 
Every November 1st, Poland observes All Saints Day or as some call it, the Day of the Deceased. In the middle of the Polish Golden Autumn there is a day when all Poles meet each other at the cemetery. Flowers and candles are lit to honor loved ones who are no longer with us. Most Polish cemeteries are very pristine and well cared for. For me this is a day of national truce and solidarity intertwined with the Roman-Catholic tradition. All Saints Day is celebrated in other countries, but the poignancy and mobility in Poland has no match. The day before and the day after, millions of Poles patiently travel for hours in never-ending traffic jams.
 
I am not always able to attend All Saints Day in my native Poland, but there are always flowers, wreaths, and candles, exceeding the number of my living distant relatives at the grave of my parents. And then there are the invisible friendly hands that clean my family's tomb a few weeks later, before the beginning of winter. The culmination of this holiday is an outdoor mass before dusk, which basically occurs at every cemetery. I must admit that for as long as I can remember; I have always tried to skip the mass service saturated with the presence of thousands of worshipers for the sake of long walks in the marvelous fall festival of lights a few hours later where the cemeteries are almost deserted. Imagine, walking in darkness on the fallen and golden dry leaves amongst the orange glow of thousands of lit candles that blend with a scent of burning wax and the array of thousands of flowers. Surrounded by people who act most courteously towards each other, and then there is the humbling moment of realizing again that death is a destiny for each of us. All of this is accompanied by solemn tranquility and feelings of nostalgia.
 

Doing good against all odds – remembering the forgotten

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture
The opportunity for doing mischief is found a hundred times a day, and of doing good once in a year. - Voltaire
 
Every November 1st, Poland observes All Saints Day or as some call it, the Day of the Deceased. In the middle of the Polish Golden Autumn there is a day when all Poles meet each other at the cemetery. Flowers and candles are lit to honor loved ones who are no longer with us. Most Polish cemeteries are very pristine and well cared for. For me this is a day of national truce and solidarity intertwined with the Roman-Catholic tradition. All Saints Day is celebrated in other countries, but the poignancy and mobility in Poland has no match. The day before and the day after, millions of Poles patiently travel for hours in never-ending traffic jams.
 
I am not always able to attend All Saints Day in my native Poland, but there are always flowers, wreaths, and candles, exceeding the number of my living distant relatives at the grave of my parents. And then there are the invisible friendly hands that clean my family's tomb a few weeks later, before the beginning of winter. The culmination of this holiday is an outdoor mass before dusk, which basically occurs at every cemetery. I must admit that for as long as I can remember; I have always tried to skip the mass service saturated with the presence of thousands of worshipers for the sake of long walks in the marvelous fall festival of lights a few hours later where the cemeteries are almost deserted. Imagine, walking in darkness on the fallen and golden dry leaves amongst the orange glow of thousands of lit candles that blend with a scent of burning wax and the array of thousands of flowers. Surrounded by people who act most courteously towards each other, and then there is the humbling moment of realizing again that death is a destiny for each of us. All of this is accompanied by solemn tranquility and feelings of nostalgia.

The Olympic Spirit is still alive: Poland’s Olympian and Paralympian auction off their Rio-2016 medals to fund children's cancer treatment

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

 “The things you learn from sports – setting goals, being part of a team, confidence – that’s invaluable. It’s not about trophies and ribbons. It’s about being on time for practice, accepting challenges and being fearful of the elements.” — Summer Sanders
  
As the Olympic flame, once stolen from Zeus by Prometheus, was extinguished, the world bid farewell to the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. The downpour that drenched the Maracana Stadium during the Olympic Closing Ceremony didn’t interrupt the carnival with the Brazilian Balao music. Near the end, to the sound of samba beats, the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach declared: “These were marvelous Olympic Games, in the Marvelous City.” A few weeks later at the Paralympic Closing Ceremony, Sir Philip Craven, the President of the International Paralympic Committee proclaimed: “Marvelous Cariocas, you warmly embraced these Games and took the athletes to your hearts. You made the Paralympics your Games, the People’s Games, and we will forever cherish our time spent with you.” 
 
The next day as guests started to travel back home, the Cariocas were on the verge of facing the reality of post-Olympic nostalgic trauma. To be sure, some of the athletes were already in the middle of the post-Olympic media frenzy; some were sharing the shiny hardware with their communities and their loved ones; some joined the professional tours to continue their season; and some simply went to bed to catch up on some well-deserved sleep. Many of them promised themselves no more -- this is the end of the Olympic journey, and some obliged themselves to work harder to be ready for Tokyo 2020. Some hit the books to experience a back to school reality, and some decided to start families.

The Paralympic Games in Rio: Where the (dis)abilities matter

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

“I savor life. When you have anything that threatens life... it prods you into stepping back and really appreciating the value of life and taking from it what you can.”
- Sonia Sotomayor
 
On the evening after the closing ceremony of the XXXI Summer Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, my mind was still immersed in the scene of several thousand perfectly chiseled bodies. I couldn’t emotionally adjust to the “normal pace of life” knowing that I would have to patiently wait for almost three weeks for the next thrilling global sporting festival, when the 15th Summer Paralympic Games will begin once again in Rio. To compensate for my anxious state of mind, I decided to watch ESPN to obtain a mini-dose of sport emotions. I got more than I bargained for. As soon as I turned on the TV, I became engrossed by a short but very captivating documentary entitled: Owen and Haatchi. From the get-go the story made a huge impression on me and served as a humbling precursor and transition to my next sporting festival where Paralympians will be competing in 22 sports and 528 events. 
 
Between September 7th and the 18th, 4,350 athletes with disabilities from 161 countries will share 4,350 compelling and inspiring stories of triumph. As they put the Paralympic spirit into motion to achieve sporting excellence, it will be our blessing to reflect not on their disabilities, but on their abilities and on the joy they have to represent their nations in the best possible way. Sport is a fair equalizer for all athletes; it doesn’t matter if you come from an affluent or developing country, every athlete still has to show up, participate, and finish the competition. The medal classification for the last Paralympics in London was not a mirror reflection of the Olympics. Instead, the para-athletes representing the nations of the emerging economies and developing countries could hold their own quite well. 

Sport free of doping or glory at all costs: That is not the question anymore

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

“Sport is a very important subject at school, that's why I gave Quidditch such an important place at Hogwarts. I was very bad in sports, so I gave Harry a talent I would really loved to have. Who wouldn't want to fly?”  - J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels
 
Even Greek mythology embraces the human desire to fly, as many of us might recall in the escape story of Daedalus and his son, Icarus, from Crete. He used wax and string to fasten feathers to reeds of varying lengths to imitate the curves of a bird's wings. Daedalus advised his son to fly at a medium altitude and follow his path of flight. If he flew too high, the sun could melt the wax, and if he flew too low, the sea could dampen the feathers. Unfortunately, Icarus became euphoric, and against the wisdom of his father, he glided higher and higher. The sun melted the wax holding his wings together, and the boy dropped into the sea and drowned. 
 
This myth has its own interpretation in sport psychology; moreover, it serves perfectly as a foreword for this reflection on the prevalence of performance enhancement drugs (PEDs) in contemporary sports in which athletes are tempted to fly above human body limits or cruise too low under the radar of clean sport. At both altitudes, they gamble with their well-being. 
 
In 1997, Bamberger and Yaeger surveyed 198 mostly US Olympians and Olympic hopefuls. They asked if the athletes would take PEDs under the hypothetical premise of not being caught and knowing they would be guaranteed a victory; 195 of 198 responded “yes”. Additionally, if the caveat was added that they would die from the side effects within 5 years, 61% of the athletes still said they would use PEDs.

Refugee team carries bittersweet message to the world

Farhad Peikar's picture
Also available in: Español

Thousands of spectators rippled to their feet while millions of others around the world joyfully watched live images on TV as the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) marched in Brazil’s Maracanã Stadium for the Opening Ceremony. Comprised of five South Sudanese runners, two Congolese judokas, two swimmers from Syria and a marathoner from Ethiopia, the six male and four female athletes were selected from a pool of 43 possible candidates.  Their inclusion was one of the top feel-good moments of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio because the 10-athlete-team not only carried the Olympic flag, but also a message of hope for millions of young people that have been driven from their homes.
 
However, while there is much to celebrate and many to praise for this unprecedented and historical initiative in the world of sports, in an ideal world such a team should not exist at all. The few joyful moments - compounded with our cheers - should not obscure the realities of unmatched human suffering in refugee camps worldwide. The very existence of such a team reminds us that the world has collectively failed over 65 million displaced people in helping them return home or find a new place to call their permanent home. These athletes represent a community that is running away from regional conflicts, civil wars, aggressions, genocides, famines, poverty, and diseases— some of which are so deep-rooted that finding viable solutions seems elusive.

Olympic-sized ambition: Halt the Games' economic excess by building a permanent site for the Olympics — in Greece, their historic home

Christopher Colford's picture

Build it well, build it wisely, and build it only once — How investing to create a permanent site for the Olympic Games, ideally in their historic home of Greece, could reduce waste, deliver economic stimulus, and avoid "white elephant" monuments to extravagance.


The jeering of angry taxpayers and frustrated favela-dwellers may drown out some of the cheering of sports enthusiasts this weekend, as the 2016 Olympic Games begin in Rio de Janeiro. The government of Brazil and local officials in Rio have certainly done their best to stage the Games successfully, addressing a range of challenges that include the Zika virus outbreak, the doping scandal among athletes and the country’s prolonged economic slump and political traumas. Yet an enduring scandal in international finance — the chronic design flaw in the way that the Games are planned for and paid for — has again imposed an enormous economic burden on the Olympic host city. Struggling economies can ill afford the extravagance of repeatedly building use-once-throw-away sports facilities.

It was surely startling to see the deep degree of scorn and sarcasm with which many workaday Brazilians, who are now enduring a deep economic downturn, hurled derision at the arrival of the Olympic torch in Rio this week. They evidently saw that Olympic arrival ceremony as a symbol, not just of athletic ambition, but of financial folly.

The anxieties that Brazil has endured on the road to Rio 2016 should underscore a longer-term, Olympic-sized concern: Mismanagement by the Games' promoters has now been thoroughly documented, underscoring the abusive way that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the global sports-industrial complex have habitually foisted reckless costs on the taxpayers of hapless host cities.

By goading Olympic-wannabe cities to make ever-more-extravagant financial commitments – stoking their dreams of a media moment of purchased publicity – the mega-event industry has helped shatter the finances of one host city after another. No wonder that so many cities are now shunning the IOC’s bidding process, dreading the deadweight losses that are almost certain to burden any Olympic host.

Welcome as the IOC’s recent “Olympic Agenda 2020” reform proposals may be, it’s long past time to rein in the financial excesses of mega-event promoters. With a claque of financiers and flacks who are ready to manipulate the gullibility of the would-be hosts, the Olympic spirit has fallen victim to the self-interest of construction firms, property developers and publicists who seek to profit from host cities’ overspending.

An invaluable book documenting this Olympic-scale threat – discussed in detail at a World Bank’s InfoShop book-and-author seminar in June 2015 – should be top-of-mind for Olympics-watchers this week, as Rio de Janeiro enjoys its moment in the spotlight. “Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup” — by Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College — can help other cities avoid an impulsive rush for momentary Olympic notoriety. A video of Zimbalist’s InfoShop presentation is archived at http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/PUBLICATION/INFOSHOP1/0,,contentMDK:20289125~pagePK:162350~piPK:165575~theSitePK:225714,00.html 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

 

Large-Scale Social Protest: A Business Risk and a Bureaucratic Opportunity
Governance Journal

The public versus private nature of organizations influences their goals, processes, and employee values. However, existing studies have not analyzed whether and how the public nature of organizations shapes their responses to concrete social pressures. This article takes a first step toward addressing this gap by comparing the communication strategies of public organizations and businesses in response to large-scale social protests. Specifically, we conceptualize, theorize, and empirically analyze the communication strategies of 100 organizations in response to large-scale social protests that took place in Israel during 2011.

Harnessing the Internet of Things for Global Development
ITU/CISCO/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development
This report explores the current use and potential of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies in tackling global development challenges, highlighting a number of specific instances where IoT interventions are helping to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues. It presents summary conclusions on what is required for the IoT to reach billions of people living in the developing world, and also to accelerate income growth and social development as a result.
 

From a rubber boat in the sea to swimming in Rio: A story of resilience

Bassam Sebti's picture


On a chilly October day in 2015, 24-year-old Rami Anis boarded a rubber boat in the Aegean Sea in Turkey. His destination was Europe and his goal was a better life away from war and hardship.

Looking at the people around him on the boat, he was horrified. They were children, men, and women. The fact that they might not make it never escaped his mind, even though he is a professional swimmer.

“Because with the sea, you can’t joke,” said the Syrian refugee.

But on Aug. 11, Rami will not be worried about swimming in the sea. He, instead, will be swimming at the Olympics. He made it safely to Belgium after days of heart-wrenching journey, from Istanbul to Izmir to Greece before setting off a trek through Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and eventually Belgium.

Rami will be competing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as a member of the Refugee Olympic Team — the first of its kind — and march with the Olympic flag immediately before host nation Brazil at the opening ceremony. 

And the gold medal for PPP goes to…Galeão International Airport’s record-setting deal

Isabel Marques de Sá's picture
When the Olympic Games comes to Rio in 2016, new medal-worthy sports will include kitesurfing, golf, and rugby sevens. If the Olympic Committee ever considers including our “sport” – the practice of public-private partnerships (PPPs) – the top medal would surely go to the home-grown Galeão International Airport PPP, which set the 2014 record as the largest PPP deal that closed globally. For this gateway to Rio – which is in the midst of preparing to accommodate more than 10,000 athletes and tens of thousands more visitors for the 2016 Olympics – even the concessions merit global rankings.
 
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Standing by for liftoff
The concession of Galeao International Airport (official name: Rio de Janeiro/Galeão–Antonio Carlos Jobim International Airport) got off the ground in the second round of airport concessions. The first round dates back to early 2012, when the government issued tenders for three major airports: Guarulhos (São Paulo), Viracopos (Campinas) and Brasília.  

In mid-2012, following the successful outcome of these three projects, the Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES) approached IFC to assist with a second round of airport concessions, including Confins airport (Belo Horizonte) and Galeão (Rio de Janeiro).  IFC teamed up with the Estruturadora Brasileira de Projetos (EBP), a project preparation company owned by some of the biggest Brazilian commercial banks and BNDES. Together, IFC and EBP were responsible for the financial, technical/economic/engineering, and environmental studies. 

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