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2008 Beijing Olympics vs. 2022: No lofty promises this time

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2008 Beijing Olympics vs. 2022: No lofty promises this time

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics showcased China’s reemergence on the world stage. In awarding those Games to China, the International Olympic Committee predicted the Olympics could improve human rights, and Chinese politicians hinted at the same.

Soaring promises are absent this time as the Beijing Winter Olympics open in just over a week in the midst of a two-year-long pandemic.

The Games are a reminder of China’s rise, but also its disregard for civil liberties, prompting a diplomatic boycott led by the United States, which has called China’s internment of at least 1 million Uyghurs a genocide.

Rights groups have documented forced labor, mass detention and torture, which China calls the “lie of the century.”

With more political, economic, and military clout, China appears to worry less about global scrutiny than it did 13 1/2 years ago. And the pandemic has given it even more control over the Olympics, particularly with the isolation of visiting journalists, separated in a “bubble” from the general Chinese population.

“There’s nothing to ‘prove’ at this point; 2008 was a ‘coming out’ party and all this one does is confirm what we’ve known for the last decade,” Amanda Shuman, a China researcher at the University of Freiburg, wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

“If anything, there’s a lot less pressure than 2008,” she said. “The Chinese government knows full well that its global economic upper hand allows it to do whatever it wishes.”

The IOC had few options when it awarded China the Games or the second time. Six possible European candidates, led by Norway and Sweden, bowed out for political or cost reasons. Voters in two other countries — Switzerland and Germany — voted “no” in referendums.

IOC members eventually picked Beijing over Almaty, Kazakhstan, in a close vote — 44-40. The result came on paper ballots after the IOC said there was an electronic glitch in the first vote. Beijing becomes the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games.

IOC President Thomas Bach called Beijing a “safe choice.” China spent more than $40 billion organizing the 2008 Olympics. The authoritarian state doesn’t need voter approval to proceed.

As for Kazakhstan, it was hit this month on the eve of the Olympics with massive protests and political unrest.

The IOC has allowed China to avoid human rights oversight. Beginning with the 2024 Paris Olympics, cities must adhere to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. However, China was not subjected to those rules when it was picked in 2015.

“When China hosts the Olympics again, it is no longer the China back in 2008,” Ai Weiwei, China’s famous dissident artist, wrote in an email to The AP. Ai helped design the famous Bird’s Nest stadium — hoping it would signify a new openness — and then regretted doing so, calling it and the Olympics China’s “fake smile.”

Ai was jailed in 2011 in China on unspecified charges and how lives in exile in Portugal. The Bird’s Nest will again host the opening ceremony on Feb. 4.

“China today has deviated further away from democracy, freedom of press and human rights, and the reality has become even harsher,” Ai added.

Here are some examples of how China’s tone has toughened.

In 2008, Beijing put some curbs on broadcasting from Tiananmen Square but allowed it; agreed to “protest zones,” although they were never used with access repeatedly denied; and dropped some reporting restrictions more than a year ahead of the Games. It also unblocked its censored internet for journalists.

In 2022, there is less accommodation. The pandemic will limit journalists to a tightly sealed “bubble,” though there will be internet access. Chinese organizers have warned foreign athletes that any statement that goes against Chinese laws could be punished, and a smartphone app widely used by athletes and reporters has glaring security vulnerabilities, according to an internet watchdog.

Some national Olympic committees have advised teams and staff not to take personal phones or laptops to Beijing. The IOC, which generates billions from sponsorships and broadcast rights, seldom pushes back in public against Chinese organizers who are, in reality, the Chinese government.

Changes that affect 2022 began a month after the 2008 Olympics ended when the global financial crisis hit world economies. China fared better than most, which — coupled with the Olympics — increased its confidence. This also coincides with the rise of Xi Jinping, who headed the 2008 Olympics and was named General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012.

“Although Xi was in charge of 2008 Olympic Games, the Winter Games is truly Xi’s Games,” said Xu Guoqi, who teaches history at the University of Hong Kong. He is the author of “Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895-2008.”

Mary Gallagher, director of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan, said the state of U.S. democracy and its “poor pandemic response” has further emboldened China.

“Right now the multiple U.S. failures create momentum for renewed nationalism and confidence in China,” Gallagher said by email. “This is made all the more effective by the Communist Party’s strict control over information, which can rain ‘positive energy’ down on what’s happening in China while only publicizing negative accounts of other countries, especially the U.S.”

China complained in 2008 that human rights protests around Tibet politicized the Olympics. The Olympic Torch Relay, taken on a world tour, faced violent protests in London and elsewhere. The IOC has not tried such a relay since, and then-President Jacques Rogge said the protests put the Beijing Olympics in “crisis.”

China again says the Olympics are only about sports, a shield the IOC’s Bach also uses against critics. China says mixing in politics goes against the Olympic Charter, although China itself dabbled in politics by boycotting the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

“Sports and politics do mix,” Laura Luehrmann, a China specialist at Wright State University, said in an email. “Politics is about the distribution and use of limited resources — most notably power and decision-making, but also finances as well. Sports is all about power and money — even if framed as glorifying athletic achievement.”

Victor Cha, who served in the White House under President George W. Bush and is the author of “Beyond the Final Score — The Politics of Sport in Asia,” said China moaning about others politicizing sports was “the pot calling the kettle black.”

“There is no country that has ignored the Olympic Charter’s mandate to keep politics out of sports more than China,” Cha, who teaches at Georgetown University, wrote in an essay last week for the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

“Much as the world would like the Olympics to be devoid of politics, as George Orwell once wrote: ‘Sport is war minus the shooting.’”

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Chicago Bears Q&A: How do the offseason moves help Justin Fields’ future? Who are the top free-agent receivers in 2023?

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Chicago Bears Q&A: How do the offseason moves help Justin Fields’ future? Who are the top free-agent receivers in 2023?

Work has begun in earnest for the 2022 Chicago Bears season with organized team activities underway this week at Halas Hall. Brad Biggs opens the weekly Bears mailbag to find questions about Justin Fields, wide receiver options and the possibility of joint practices this summer.

If you had to do your best to spin the Bears offseason positively for Justin Fields, how would you do so? — @theryanheckman

The first place you start is Fields has a year of experience with 10 starts under his belt. It doesn’t matter that he was in a system with coaches he no longer plays for. He understands the difference between college and the NFL now, the intricacies of reading defenses, preparing with a game plan and studying film. All of that is beneficial and should aid him in Year 2, when none of that will be new to him.

What is new is the coaching staff, led by offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, and the playbook. The hope is Getsy and quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko can help unlock Fields’ immense physical talent and allow him to operate more efficiently out of the pocket. Fields proved last season he can be a magician extending plays, both running the ball and buying more time to make deep throws downfield. Now he has to raise his level of play in the pocket when the ball has to come out on time and on target.

The wide zone running scheme has benefited other quarterbacks around the league, and the Bears hope that will be the case with Fields. There are valid questions about the offensive line, the skill-position talent and more, but if Fields can take significant steps forward, his play can ease some of those concerns. His performance this season will heavily dictate what happens next offseason and shape expectations for the organization.

What is the likelihood the Bears add another veteran WR before camp? — @connor_riecks18

They signed a pair of veteran wide receivers — Tajae Sharpe and Dante Pettis — to one-year contracts May 12. Those names probably don’t move the needle for you because they haven’t had a lot of production the past few seasons. But wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert spent time with Pettis with the New York Giants, and Janocko was the Minnesota Vikings wide receivers coach in 2020 when Sharpe was with them.

If you’re asking about an available veteran such as Odell Beckham Jr., Cole Beasley or Will Fuller, that seems less likely. I wouldn’t rule it out, but it looks more and more like the Bears want to see how they can develop existing players on the roster — such as Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown and third-round pick Velus Jones — behind Darnell Mooney. I doubt they are scouring the market for an upgrade over Pringle. They signed him with the idea he could develop into a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver now that he will have more opportunities being out of Kansas City.

While much has been made about the Bears drafting a series of offensive linemen, they haven’t had a first-round offensive lineman in several years. What is the success rate of starting offensive linemen not drafted in the first round for the Bears? — @babydocdave

Since 2017, the Bears have used two first-round picks on quarterbacks and were without first-round selections in 2019, 2020 and 2022. The only other first-round pick in that span was linebacker Roquan Smith in 2018. Since 2000, the Bears used first-round picks on offensive linemen Kyle Long (2013), Gabe Carimi (2011), Chris Williams (2008) and Marc Colombo (2002).

We’ll have to see how 2021 draft picks Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins pan out this season as they have clear paths to win starting jobs. Cody Whitehair was a second-round pick in 2016 and has been a mainstay on the line since then. James Daniels was a second-round pick in 2018 and was solid when healthy. Before that, you have to go back to Phil Emery’s seventh-round home run in 2014 with left tackle Charles Leno.

With the Bears taking four offensive linemen in the fifth round or later this year, an absolute best-case scenario is that two of them pan out as starters down the road. It still would be a win if one of them is a solid starter in the future. It’s way too early to speculate who could pan out and where.

Out of all the wide receiver signings, which do you think will have the biggest impact for Justin Fields’ development? — @whitesquirrl11

Some might view it differently, but I believe a quarterback has a greater influence in helping develop a wide receiver than the other way around. If the quarterback is struggling to read defenses, understand coverages and process after the snap, I don’t care how dynamic the wide receiver is, he won’t have a huge impact week in and week out. The Bears don’t have the quality or depth at wide receiver that they ultimately want to achieve. That’s not news to anyone. They know they need to continue to develop the position, and that can be said about multiple groups on the roster.

Will the Bears have joint practices with another team during preseason? — Larry S., Elburn

That’s unlikely this summer but not because the Bears don’t have interest. Joint practices are difficult to schedule, and to a large degree teams are at the mercy of the NFL’s preseason slate.

“I don’t think we are,” coach Matt Eberflus said Tuesday when asked about the possibility. “I’m in a conversation with one of (the preseason opponents) right now and that might come up. I’m not going to say their name, but we could potentially do one. But I don’t foresee it happening right now.”

The Bears open the preseason Aug. 13 at Soldier Field against the Kansas City Chiefs and then play on the road Aug. 18 against the Seattle Seahawks and Aug. 27 against the Cleveland Browns. The quick turnaround from playing the Chiefs to flying to Seattle would make joint practices with the Seahawks difficult if not impossible to schedule. Typically teams want to have joint practices in the first or second week of the preseason. That leads me to believe the greatest chance is that Eberflus has talked with the Chiefs about the possibility.

Twenty-three teams participated in joint practices last summer, including the Bears but not the Chiefs. Chiefs coach Andy Reid has said he’s not a fan of joint practices in part because the preseason schedule was reduced from four to three games. The Seahawks also did not participate in joint practices in 2021. The Browns already have one practice partner lined up for this summer in the Philadelphia Eagles.

Is there a strong wide receiver free-agent class next year? The Bears will have money to spend. — @bigrafael76

It’s really early to start wondering about who will hit the open market in March 2023. A lot of players could be re-signed before then, and some could even be traded and signed by a new team. The franchise tag could be a factor. Deebo Samuel, Terry McLaurin and DK Metcalf top the list right now. After that, I don’t know if there is a receiver who would command the kind of huge contract I believe you are referencing.

Diontae Johnson, Jarvis Landry, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Hunter Renfow, Allen Lazard, Deonte Harris, Jamison Crowder, Mecole Hardman, D.J. Chark, Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers, Marvin Jones and Cam Sims are among the receivers entering the final year of their contracts. You can add the Bears’ Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown to that list too. With any luck, they will play really well this season and the Bears will be motivated to retain them.

As I have written previously, what really would be great for the Bears is if they can find a top-flight wide receiver in the draft and take advantage of having that player on a cost-controlled rookie contract.

Does the new regime actually believe that this roster as currently constructed can compete for the division? Or is part of the master plan to be at the bottom of the league (where most project them) to get that higher draft pick? — @lastcalllesko

When referring to the roster, you have to understand nothing about it is static. I expect GM Ryan Poles and his staff to continually overhaul the roster with moves, and that process won’t end when the regular season begins. Before that point, they could be particularly active when teams cut down to the 53-man roster by making multiple waiver claims or even a trade.

As far as competing for the NFC North title, who thinks that’s realistic in Year 1 of a new regime with the Bears coming off a 6-11 season with one of the oldest rosters in the league? Poles has been busy clearing salary-cap issues for the future. The Bears did not have a first-round draft pick this year and are installing a new offense for a talented second-year quarterback who had a rookie season full of struggles. That makes an instant turnaround with a new staff difficult.

Will Eberflus believe the Bears can battle every week with a chance to win? Absolutely. Is the plan to tank? No. The Bears want to develop the young players on the roster. If a handful of inexperienced players blossoms in 2022, that would put them in a better position for success in 2023 than absolutely stinking for one of the top draft picks. It’s wise to consider all of the factors in play for Poles, Eberflus and Bears fans when looking ahead to this season.

How has the offensive line been set up this week? Curious if they still have Larry Borom at left tackle and Teven Jenkins at right tackle. — @widdison21

That’s how they were lined up Tuesday, and my best guess is the Bears will open training camp with that configuration. But they have two more weeks of OTAs and a minicamp to sort through options. The coaching staff won’t make any determinations for Week 1 until training camp and the preseason.

“Right now, it’s still way too early,” offensive line coach Chris Morgan said Tuesday. “It’s May. We’re not even in pads yet. Right now, we’re refining techniques, we’re introducing schemes, everything is fluid. Just moving guys around, that kind of deal, and more technical right now.

“I definitely did (pre-draft work on) both guys when they came out (last year), and a lot of the positives you see now. Both those guys are working really hard. They’re coming along. They want to win. They’re willing to do whatever. It’s been a nice surprise so far.”

Sign Akiem Hicks for one year at $7 million. Whatcha think? — @robinrichie2

If a team was willing to pay Hicks $7 million for this season, he probably already would have a contract elsewhere. Perhaps he will wind up getting that kind of money or can achieve that level with incentives. I doubt the Bears would entertain the idea of re-signing the 32-year-old.

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Great Scheme ! You will get 17,00,000/- on investment of Rs 233, tax exemption will also be available, Check scheme details here

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Government Scheme :Good News! You will have to invest once in this government scheme, 5000 rupees will come every month sitting at home

Great Scheme ! You will get 17,00,000/- on investment of Rs 233, tax exemption will also be available

LIC Jeevan Labh Plan: LIC (LIC Policy) has brought a tremendous scheme. In LIC Jeevan Labh scheme, you can easily get a fat fund of 17 lakhs by depositing just Rs 233 every month. Let’s know about this superhit scheme.

LIC keeps on offering many great Plans for its customers. If you are also dreaming of becoming a millionaire with safe investments, then this LIC policy is very useful for you. LIC Jeevan Labh scheme is such a policy in which you can get a fund of 17 lakhs by depositing just Rs 233 every month. Let us know about this policy.

LIC Jeevan Labh

This is a non-linked policy named- Jeevan Labh (LIC jeevan Labh, 936). Because of this, this policy has no relation with the share market. Whether the market goes up or down, it will not affect your money at all. That is, your money is completely safe in this scheme. This is a Limited Premium Plan. This plan has been made keeping in mind the marriage of children, education and purchase of property.

Features of the policy-

1. LIC’s Jeevan Labh Plan feature policy gives both profit and protection.

2. People between the age group of 8 to 59 years can easily take this policy.

3. The policy term can be taken from 16 to 25 years.

4. A minimum sum assured of Rs 2 lakh has to be taken.

5. There is no limit on the maximum amount.

6. Loan facility is also available on payment of premium for 3 years.

7. Tax exemption on premium and on the death of the policy holder, the nominee gets the benefits of Sum Assured and Bonus.

Policy holder will get death benefit

If the policyholder dies during the policy term and has paid all premiums till death, then his nominee gets Death Sum Assured, Simple Reversionary Bonus and Final Addition Bonus as Death Benefit. That is, the nominee will get additional sum insured.

Government Scheme :Good News! You will have to invest once in this government scheme, 5000 rupees will come every month sitting at home

The post Great Scheme ! You will get 17,00,000/- on investment of Rs 233, tax exemption will also be available, Check scheme details here appeared first on JK Breaking News.

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Soucheray: Bike trail planning to befit a Sunbelt state. Which we’re not

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Soucheray: Bike trail planning to befit a Sunbelt state. Which we’re not

City planners with St. Paul Parks and Recreation are planning a “regional trail master plan” for Summit Avenue, which sounds like good news for people heading west in Conestoga wagons, but this is about, what else, bicycles.

Summit Avenue already has bike lanes, but apparently improved bike access is an important part of the master plan for getting Summit hooked up to the regional trails. Design concepts are to be made public later this month or in June, with Summit Avenue homeowners suddenly becoming aware of the new plans and wondering about the impact on trees.

A fellow I know who wishes to remain anonymous and is himself an avid bicyclist has been doing something the city and county have not done. He has kept records of bicycle use on Cleveland Av between Highland Parkway and Marshall Av. That plan cost residents and businesses parking spots along parts of Cleveland for YEAR-ROUND bike lanes, his emphasis.

It’s the year-round celebration that motivated our fact finder.

“Every conversation and outlook,” he said, “is presented as if we are one of the Sun Belt states where Minnesotans can bike in the sun year-round —if only we would build or expand more bike lanes.”

He said he purposely drove Cleveland Avenue from Highland Parkway to University Avenue to get to Menards where he gets building and maintenance materials for his job. He travels that route five days a week and sometimes twice a day.

“Knowing all too well that this is not a Sun Belt state,” he said, “I focused on spring, fall and winter months.”

He kept a notebook in the car. He purposely varied the time he used the route, from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and at all different times of the day. Trust me, he has been hectoring me about this for two years; he has pondered, for example, rewarding the first person to see Russ Stark, St. Paul’s Chief Resiliency Officer, using that bike lane. He observed, of course, sunny, cloudy, windy, rainy, snowy and icy days.

“Never,” he said, “never, from early October through late April did I count five bikes total on my drive to and from Menards.’’

And yet small businesses and homeowners still lost their parking for year-round bike lanes that are dangerous in the winter, plowed in as they are with snow and ice.

My personal litmus test is the dedicated bike lanes on Pelham Boulevard, between Mississippi River Boulevard almost to University Avenue. The absence of bicyclists on that stretch is exceeded only by the number of empty seats on the Green Line light-rail trains.

And now more biking is coming to Summit Avenue and in expanded ways. St. Paul Parks and Recreation planners and architects vow to be as “green’’ as possible, which could mean anything if access needs to be improved, whatever that means.

Summit Avenue is a treasure. We all should be grateful to the people who live there and maintain its unique-to-the-country charm and character. But have you driven down Summit lately, the old RDS, ride down Summit? Summit is a patched-up mess, an embarrassment.

It would be refreshing if just once we heard about an initiative or a “Summit Avenue Regional Trail Master Plan” for cars.

No, this is far from the Sun Belt. For all but a handful of pros and diehards, dedicated bicycle lanes are just folly for seven months a year.

And try to get building materials back from the store on a bicycle.

Joe Soucheray can be reached at [email protected] Soucheray’s “Garage Logic’’ podcast can be heard at garagelogic.com

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