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from The Great Debate:

Putin’s Occupation Olympics

The upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi has naturally led to a critical look at the host country’s human rights record, with particular focus on issues such as the treatment of gays and journalists.

Yet in a less-noticed offense, Russian President Vladimir Putin is using the Olympics to advance his violations of international law -- namely, as a tool for expanding Russia’s control over the occupied Georgian territory of Abkhazia. Despite the conquest of a neighboring nation -- an action almost unheard of since World War Two and banned by the U.N. Charter -- the international community has scarcely protested.

Russia has used the proximity of the Olympics to solidify its latest conquest. The main town of Abkhazia, Sukhumi, is a short drive from Sochi. Much of the materials for the massive Olympic construction projects -- rock and cement -- are taken from Abkhazia. Russia has quartered thousands of construction workers for the Games in Sukhumi, further blurring the lines between Georgian territory and Russia proper.

Russia and Georgia had clashed over the latter’s border provinces since the breakup of the Soviet Union. In 2008, Russia fought Georgia, its tiny neighbor, in a brief war that resulted in Moscow fully conquering two pockets of territory -- South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In international law, these territories remain occupied parts of sovereign Georgian territory.

from The Great Debate:

Moscow fiddles, while Kiev burns

Timing is everything in politics, and this adage could not be truer for the whirlwind now enveloping Russia and Ukraine. Both countries are in the headlines -- Russia for the coming $50 billion Winter Olympics extravaganza, and Ukraine for an economic and political collapse that has left the country on the cusp of revolution.

The confluence of these two events has created a unique set of circumstances unlikely to change until the Olympic flame is extinguished on February 23. For the prestige of hosting the Olympics -- and the huge international spotlight that accompanies the spectacle -- limits Moscow’s ability to act decisively toward Ukraine as it might have otherwise.

from Global Investing:

Olympic medal winners — and economies — dissected

The Olympic medals have all been handed out and the athletes are on their way home.  Which countries surpassed expectations and which ones did worse than expected? And did this have anything to do with the state of their economies?

An extensive Goldman Sachs report entitled Olympics and Economics  (a regular feature before each Olympic Games) predicted before the Games kicked off that the United States would top the tally with 36 gold medals. It also said the top 10 would include five G7 countries (the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy), two BRICs (China and Russia), one of the developing countries it dubs Next-11  (South Korea), and one additional developed and emerging market. These would be Australia and Ukraine, it said.

from Photographers' Blog:

Robo-cams go for Olympic gold

By Fabrizio Bensch

Is it possible to get 11 photographers into a box and put them in a position where you could never place a photographer? Normally, it would be absolutely impossible. But nothing is impossible when it comes to the Olympic games.

The London Olympic summer games will produce huge emotions, records and we as the Reuters photographers team will catch it from any extraordinary angle. When athletes from around the world compete against each other for the glory of an Olympic medal, hundreds of photographers try to capture the one and only moment which makes the Olympic games so unique.

from Photographers' Blog:

Stretching the Olympic portrait limits

By Lucas Jackson

Over the course of three days Reuters, along with several other prominent outlets, was given a space and (almost) guaranteed time with every member of Team USA that was able to attend a media summit in Dallas this past May, in order to take portraits of the team members. It was a win-win situation for all involved. The athletes were able to take care of a great deal of their media availability in one weekend and members of the media were not required to travel all over the US in order to get portraits of these elite athletes before they head off to London for the 2012 Olympics. As the photographer from Reuters assigned to this portrait marathon there was only one issue; how to take a single space along with extremely limited time with each athlete to make unique, interesting, and ideally self-explanatory images of dozens and dozens of athletes.

It was a daunting task to say the least but I started with a simple lighting setup that played off of several portrait collections I had seen, including Douglas Kirkland's, and work that tends to appear in either men's health or sporting magazines. I finally settled on a dual setup where my first setup would use a simple grey background and light to enhance the muscle tone of the athletes. My second setup was to use a large American flag (given to me by my brother as I arrived in Jalalabad, Afghanistan) to take photos of the athletes who were involved with sports that did not lend themselves to the flexing of muscles or shedding of clothing. I wanted to use ProFoto lights as they have a remote controller and trigger called the "Air Remote" that I could put on my camera to control the light's power output from the controller mounted on top of the camera. This would save me precious time as I wouldn't have to physically go to each of the four lights to change their outputs depending on whether I was shooting on the grey seamless backdrop or the flag.

from Left field:

Five defining moments from a decade of sport

As the decade draws to a close, we pick five sporting moments which have defined the last 10 years.

1. Cathy Freeman lit the Olympic flame at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, a Games set in a country which embraces the outdoor life and punches well above its weight in most sports.

from Left field:

Olympics 2016 decision day: live blog

Join us for our live blog on the day of the decision for the 2016 Olympic Games, with Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo the four candidate cities.
Comments are open, so please give us your views and predictions, and we have a poll running, so give us your vote as well! poll by twiigs.com

Kevin Fylan, Copenhagen

from UK News:

Can Team GB beat 2008 medal tally?

ben.jpgTeam GB has had a glittering Olympic Games in Beijing, with its best showing in the medals table for a century.Performances by the country's cyclists, sailors, swimmers and rowers have resulted in a gold haul of at least 16 golds, with a few days still to go.Cyclist Chris Hoy, who became the first British athlete to win three gold medals in an Olympics, was one of a clutch of stars to make history.Ben Ainslie became Britain's most successful Olympic sailor, while Rebecca Romero became the first British woman to win two medals in two summer Olympic sports.London 2012 chiefs had targeted fourth place in the medals table in four years' time, but Team GB was already holding third place in 2008 ahead of Russia and arch rivals Australia.Will Team GB be able to perform so well in 2012? Or has it peaked? What needs to happen to help it maintain expectations?

from Photographers' Blog:

There is always one…Part four

Sport is a dominant theme at the moment, obviously, because of the impending start of the Olympic Games in China. 

 Nevertheless I offer no apologies for selecting this picture by Darren Staples of Manchester United's Patrice Evra and Juventus' Mauro Camoranesi clashing in mid-air during their pre-season friendly soccer match at Old Trafford in Manchester on August 6. As I looked through the file of Reuters pictures it jumped out at me, and has everything a good soccer picture should have. Of course it's sharp, tightly composed, is shot at the height of the action and, because the players appear to be so far off the ground, it conveys a sense of drama. Also, a very simple point, but one that is often missed - the ball is in the picture!

from Photographers' Blog:

Getting your point across

With the Olympics now only a month away the search for scene-setting images to tempt the visual palate has begun in earnest. From the Beijing file Henry Lee gives us this to kick start the week - Wei Shengchu, 58, a supporter of traditional Chinese medicine, poses for photos in front of Beijing Railway Station with his head covered with acupuncture needles depicting 205 national flags and an Olympic torch, 7, 2008. Local media reported that Wei wanted to express his good wishes for the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games as well as to promote traditional Chinese medicine. 

 China 2

And it is all his own work, all 205 and something more substantial representing the Olympic flame, painstakingly inserted into his head to the obvious entertainment of passersby. 

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