Tag Archives: olympic

Hope . . . From the Heart of Horses – Kathy Pike


Hope . . . From the Heart of Horses

How Horses Teach Us About Presence, Strength, and Awareness

Kathy Pike

Genre: Nature

Price: $11.99

Publish Date: April 22, 2009

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC

How communicating and connecting with horses can help us reconnect with ourselves.   Exploring and celebrating the bond possible between horses and humans, each chapter in this unique book offers a life lesson about trusting one’s instincts, honestly addressing emotions, achieving clarity in communications, and releasing negative thoughts.   Because their survival depends on being highly attuned to the thoughts and feelings of others, horses sense human intentions rather than what may appear in a human’s facial expressions—which has a remarkable effect on the relationship between these two distinctly different species. Among the moving stories included are those of a horse named Hope who teaches the difference between hope and faith; how an abused horse’s background brought up old memories and helped the author to move on; a young Olympic equestrienne hopeful who discovers and reaffirms her self-esteem; and a corporate training session in which one participant achieves great success merely by being honest about her fears. As you see how these people grow deeper into themselves as they learn the horse’s way, you, too, will be inspired to explore, and benefit from, the deep and everlasting connection and communication between horses and humans.

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Hope . . . From the Heart of Horses – Kathy Pike

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What’s a smokestorm? A meteorologist explains.

As wildfire smoke descended on Seattle this week, the sun turned an apocalyptic shade of red and the city breathed in some of the unhealthiest air in the world. A new word to describe this phenomenon graced the headlines: “smokestorm.”

The person who coined the term is Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington and revered Seattle meteorologist. “A Smokestorm is Imminent,” read the title of his blog post last Saturday, in which he projected the dangerously smoky days ahead for northwest Washington state.

“You have heard of rainstorms, snowstorms, and windstorms,” Mass wrote. “It is time to create another one: the smokestorm.”

I called up Mass on Wednesday — the day before a drizzle came in and the smoke began to dissipate — to hear the story behind the term and what he thinks we can do to prevent future smokestorms.

He came up the word to help prepare people for the hazardous air conditions. “I just wanted to give people a heads up, and something dramatic probably was more effective than ‘air quality alert,’” Mass tells me.

Mass defines a “smokestorm” as “a sudden onset of high concentrations of smoke that are large enough to affect daily life.”

Like other types of storms, a smokestorm disrupts normal operations. In Seattle this week, flights were delayed. The tourism industry took a hit. State health officials even started warning people not to vacuum.

“This was the worst [smoke] event we had in 20 years,” Mass tells me. “But one thing you can keep in mind is that people are not old enough to remember what it was like in the early 20th century and before.”

Mass says that Seattle was historically a “very smoky place.” He points to an example: In 1895, when Mark Twain visited Olympia, the capital of Washington, the city’s reception committee apologized to him for the dense smoke from wildfires that clouded picturesque views of the Olympic Mountains.

Wildfires and smoke were part of life, but they weren’t like the giant blazes or smokestorms we see today. In additional to naturally occuring blazes, indigenous groups in the area would start low-intensity burns for hunting and clearing the land to gather food — a practice that stands in stark contrast with the aggressive fire suppression practiced during the last hundred-plus years.

The forests are now overgrown and “completely unlike what they were like 150 years ago,” Mass says, “and they tend to burn these large fires which sometimes we just can’t stop.”

There’s considerable agreement among scientists that climate change is making drought and heat — and consequently, wildfires — worse. But it’s not the only factor at play here. Mass calls the climate change explanation for wildfires a “simplistic narrative,” though he acknowledges the danger it poses. (Recently, some in the climate community have criticized Mass’ approach to climate.*) “Climate change is going to get more and more serious as time goes on, so you gotta worry about that,” he told me.

In addition to overgrown forests, Mass places some responsibility on the spread of invasive grasses — which he referred to as “grassoline” — that burn more readily than Washington’s native grasses.

So how do we put a stop to gigantic fires, and thus smokestorms, in the West? Mass says the key is proper forest management: Clearing out excess fuel and doing low-level prescribed burns.

“It would cost billions of dollars to do,” Mass says, “but we’re gonna pay for it anyway. You might as well do it smart and take care of it.”

*This piece has been updated. 

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What’s a smokestorm? A meteorologist explains.

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Saving Tarboo Creek – Scott Freeman


Saving Tarboo Creek
One Family’s Quest to Heal the Land
Scott Freeman

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: January 24, 2018

Publisher: Timber Press

Seller: Workman Publishing Co., Inc.

“A moving account of a beautiful project. We need stories of healing in this tough moment; this is a particularly fine one.” —Bill McKibben, author of  Radio Free Vermont When the Freeman family decided to restore a damaged creek in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula—to transform it from a drainage ditch into a stream that could again nurture salmon— they knew the task would be formidable and the rewards plentiful. In Saving Tarboo Creek , Scott Freeman artfully blends his family’s story with powerful universal lessons about how we can all live more constructive, fulfilling, and natural lives by engaging with the land rather than exploiting it. Equal parts heartfelt and empowering, this book explores how we can all make a difference one choice at a time. In the proud tradition of Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac , Saving Tarboo Creek is both a timely tribute to our land and a bold challenge to protect it. 

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Saving Tarboo Creek – Scott Freeman

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What happens to Rio’s stadiums after the Olympics end?

What happens to Rio’s stadiums after the Olympics end?

By on Aug 19, 2016Share

Long after the athletes have packed up their Speedos and the torch has gone out, the structures that house the 2016 Olympics will remain. While Rio de Janeiro used its existing national soccer stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies, it also built a number of other stadiums and venues for the games — and displaced 80,000 residents in the process. So what’s to come of all those buildings once everyone has taken their balls and gone home?

The Rio games were billed as a model for sustainability, but they failed in many respects — from polluted waterways to nightmarish congestion to the construction of a golf course on a nature preserve. But one of the more important indicators of an event’s sustainability is what happens to the infrastructure after the games are over — and on that front, Rio has ambitious plans.

Future Arena, the handball venue, will be taken apart and the pieces used to build four schools around the city, each serving 500 students. Architect Manuel Nogueira said the Future Arena was built with “nomadic architecture,” designed to be easily dismantled, transported, and rebuilt. “The way everything gets moved from place to another is a bit like Lego,” Nogueira told CityLab.

In addition to Future Arena, the city will turn the aquatics stadium into two community swimming centers; the media center will become a high school dorm; and the 300 acres of land on which Barra Olympic Park currently sits will go be turned over for public parks and  private development. Repurposing venues like this can be good for both people and the planet: According to architect Jeff Keas, who has worked on seven Olympic games, temporary buildings have half the carbon footprint of conventional buildings, and can cost up to 80 percent less.

That’s assuming, of course, that everything goes to plan. Other cities have tried to repurpose Olympic venues without much luck. The iconic Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing, for instance, was supposed to house China’s leading soccer club after the 2008 games, but the team later backed out amid reports that they were embarrassed to play in an arena built for 91,000 when they averaged 10,000 spectators per game. Now, Bird’s Nest sits empty but for visiting tourists — and still costs $11 million a year to maintain.

The Beijing National Stadium, or the Bird’s Nest, was home of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. iStockphoto

London, too, has run into trouble with its retired venues. While an aquatic center, a velo dome, and a handball arena left over from 2012 are all open to the public, there has been controversy over the redevelopment of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, home of the Olympic Village and several sporting venues during the games.

The park is located in London’s East End, a historically low-income area burdened by tracts of toxic land from centuries of exposure to industrial waste. The city (and taxpayers) cleaned up the land for the Olympics, and the plan was for the park to be redeveloped with an emphasis on affordable housing. Instead, London’s erstwhile mayor and Brexiteer Boris Johnson announced in 2014 that available housing would be reduced in favor of more commercial development. Now that the land was detoxified for the games, the East End is rapidly gentrifying and lower income residents are being pushed out.

Elsewhere, former Olympic venues have simply been left to rot. Hitler’s Olympic Village in Berlin housed a hospital for German soldiers during World War II, but today, it’s a ruin. The same is true of former venues in Turin, Sarajevo, Athens, Munich, and beyond. You can visit these sites — maybe stand on abandoned podiums and run on Olympic tracks — but that’s about all you can do.

Perhaps Rio will not meet such a fortune. But even if the city’s arenas are successfully repurposed, the new buildings are not likely to bring solace to the 80,000 residents — most of them poor — who lost their homes to the Olympics. The games may be a two-week-long show for the rest of us, but for the displaced, the disruption they cause could last a lifetime. A new pool to swim in won’t change that.

Want to know more about the effect that Olympic infrastructure has on cities? Watch our video:

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What happens to Rio’s stadiums after the Olympics end?

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Here’s What the World’s Top Chefs Are Making at the Olympics

Mother Jones

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Amid the never-ending scandal circuit at this year’s Olympics—the doping controversies, the coup and assorted government corruption, the mystifying pollution of seemingly every body of water bigger than a bathtub—it’s easy to forget that good things, too, are happening in Rio de Janeiro.

Tuesday marked the launch of RefettoRio, a zero-waste soup kitchen spearheaded by Michelin-starred chef Massimo Bottura in the Lapa neighborhood of the Brazilian city. RefettoRio, which gets its name from the Latin word reficere—”to make or to restore”—provides free meals to those in need throughout the course of the Olympic Games. The kicker: The kitchen does so using only surplus food from the Olympic Village.

Sinta um pouco do que foram os preparativos para o primeiro dia do @refettoriogastromotiva! Agora estamos com um sentimento que é misto de dever cumprido associado com os preparativos para o jantar de hoje! #ComidaCulturaDignidade #Gastromotiva #RuadaLapa108 #RefettorioGastromotiva

A photo posted by Gastromotiva (@gastromotiva) on Aug 10, 2016 at 7:10am PDT

Food waste became a prominent issue at the 2012 Olympics in London, when six whistleblowers working in catering posted photos and videos of huge quantities of food being thrown away immediately after preparation. One employee claimed to be tossing out 45 pounds of prawns, 30 pounds of fish fillets, 90 pounds of vegetables, and 45 pounds of meat on a daily basis.

RefettoRio, on the other hand, hopes to take that excess food and turn it into meals for the city’s low-income and refugee communities. It’s a collaboration between Bottura, the Italian head chef of Osteria Francescana, ranked as the top eatery in the world by San Pellegrino’s 2016 World’s 50 Best Restaurants List, and David Hertz, creator of Gastromotiva, a Brazilian public interest organization that aims to empower Brazil’s vulnerable populations through kitchen training. RefettoRio employs local cooks, many of them graduates of Gastromotiva’s training program, alongside international celebrity chefs, including Alain Ducasse, Francis Mallmann, and Rodolfo Guzman. Needless to say, the resulting meals are nothing like reheated soup and ramen noodles: All 5,000 planned meals have three full courses. The photo of chefs plating a course on the restaurant’s opening night above gives you an idea.

The soup kitchen is built on a swath of land granted by the city for the next 10 years. After the end of the Olympics, it will double as a restaurant-school, relying on donations of ugly and past-date produce from local markets and grocery stores.

This isn’t the first time Bottura has tried to elevate wasted food. During ExpoMilan 2015, Bottura created a soup kitchen in an abandoned theater in the Milan suburb of Greco, using only scraps discarded from the world exhibition. More than 60 international chefs came to cook free meals for Milan’s homeless and refugee populations. All told, the refectory served up more than 15 tons of salvaged food, enough for 10,000 meals.

After Rio de Janerio, Bottura plans to roll out soup kitchens in Montreal, Berlin, his hometown of Modena, and New York City, in an initiative called Food for Soul. The Bronx-based project, co-sponsored by Robert De Niro, is slated to begin in 2017. Despite the elite reputation of Bottura and his cohort of fine-dining masterminds, he stresses the inclusive nature of these projects. “Food for Soul is not a charity project: It is a cultural one,” he says.

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Here’s What the World’s Top Chefs Are Making at the Olympics

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For the Love of God, Can We All Stop Whining About the Olympics Being Tape Delayed?

Mother Jones

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Here is Meredith Blake in the LA Times commenting on the Olympic opening ceremonies last night:

In yet the latest decision to fuel the #NBCfail hashag, the network broadcast the ceremony on a one-hour delay on the East Coast. The West Coast was delayed by an additional three hours. NBC claimed it was delaying the broadcast in order to provide additional “context” for viewers. The real reason, of course, was to draw as many eyeballs and run as many commercials (and women’s gymnastics promos) as possible.

Are we going to keep whining about this forever? The Olympics are tape-delayed so they can be broadcast in prime time. They’re stuffed with commercials because NBC paid a billion dollars for the broadcast rights and commercials are how they make up for that.

We’re not children. We all know this. Nevertheless, we’ve been complaining about it since 1992 and NBC has been resolutely tape-delaying the games anyway ever since. Why? Because that’s how most normal people like it. You know, the ones who have to work during the day and don’t get home until 6 or 7 o’clock.

The only question I have is why NBC allows itself to be bullied by a small squad of elitist reporters and sports purists into making up weird excuses about “context” or “plausibly live.” Why not just say, “Don’t be a child. We’re tape-delaying it so more people can watch.” Their viewing audience, which is much more sophisticated than the reporters and sports purists, will have no problem with this.

POSTSCRIPT: But other sports events aren’t tape delayed. Why the Olympics? Why why why?

Please. Events in the US aren’t tape delayed because they’re carefully scheduled to air when the networks want them to air. Overseas events are usually shown live and re-broadcast on tape delay. But you can’t do this with the Olympics because they run all day.

Also, not to make too fine a point of this, but most Americans don’t give a shit about most Olympic sports. They watch them once every four years, mostly to cheer Americans who win medals, and that’s about it. If it’s even slightly inconvenient to watch, they won’t bother. Despite their whinging, this is also true of the elitist reporters and sports purists, who for 47 months out of every 48 mostly couldn’t care less about rowing or archery or sumo wrestling.

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For the Love of God, Can We All Stop Whining About the Olympics Being Tape Delayed?

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6 ways the Rio Olympics are failing on sustainability

Game of groans

6 ways the Rio Olympics are failing on sustainability

By on Aug 5, 2016Share

Brazil wooed the International Olympic Committee with promises of sustainability when it made its bid in 2009 for Rio to host the games, but it hasn’t followed through on those pledges. From waters teeming with pathogens to transportation troubles, the Rio Olympics are looking like a hot mess. Of course, lots of past Olympics looked disastrous just before they kicked off too.

1. There’s something in the water

Athletes have been advised to keep their mouths closed when swimming or sailing, as Olympic waters have been found to have virus levels 1.7 million times higher that what would be considered worrisome in the U.S. Rio constructed barriers to keep trash out of the main areas where events are being held, but that won’t stop the sewage and pathogens from floating in (though they might stop body parts from washing ashore).

2. A transportation nightmare

Rio’s traffic is so bad (it’s the fourth most congested city in the world) that members of the International Olympic Committee are already regretting the decision to hold the games there. A $3 billion subway extension was massively delayed and has just barely opened. And earlier this year, a new bike path constructed for the games collapsed, raising safety concerns.

3. Scary diseases

Even though Zika infection rates are slowing down because it’s winter in Brazil, there are plenty of diseases and illnesses to worry about, including dengue fever, rotavirus, norovirus, and hepatitis A. Oh, and as if that’s not already enough, drug-resistant superbacteria.

4. Injustice to residents

An estimated 77,000 people have been evicted from their homes to make way for infrastructure for the games, and entire neighborhoods have been bulldozed.

5. Clashes with critters

The controversial Olympics golf course was built in a sensitive coastal area, and environmentalists say it destroyed habitat and harmed native plants and animals, including endangered species. But it didn’t drive all the animals away: The golf course is still teeming with wildlife like capybaras, sloths, boa constrictors, and miniature crocodiles, so organizers have hired five handlers to keep potentially dangerous critters away from players during game time.

6. Shoddy construction

The Olympics require a vast amount of construction in a short amount of time, and that’s led to buildings that aren’t up to code. Haphazard construction has already caused gas leaks, a small fire, and plumbing mishaps in the Olympic Village. Conditions have prompted some athletes to stay in hotels or luxury cruise ships instead.

Most Brazilians think the 2016 Olympics will do more harm than good. Judging by what we’ve seen so far, the average Brazilian citizen just might be smarter than the Olympic organizers.

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6 ways the Rio Olympics are failing on sustainability

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How Are You Supposed to Win a Gold Medal If You Can’t Get A Cup of Coffee?

Mother Jones

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Brazil has been the globe’s most prolific coffee-producing nation for 150 years; and coffee culture has long permeated Rio de Janeiro, where you can find everything from a cheap cafezinho (little cup of coffee) at a corner cafe to super fancy brews extracted from the nation’s best coffee beans. But if you’re an athlete holed up in Olympic Village for the games, things are apparently a bit different. Here’s NPR:

BLOCK: This will be the second Olympics for Egyptian archer Ahmed El-Nemr. He’s mostly happy, but there is a problem.
AHMED EL-NEMR: Actually, yes, I have some complains about coffee (laughter).
BLOCK: He’s been shocked to find there is no coffee for athletes in the village apartment buildings or at the sports venues.
NEMR: I asked. They said we are only limited to Coca-Cola products. So…
BLOCK: You’re kidding me.
NEMR: No. Yeah, that’s what they told us in the venue.

What? No coffee for Olympic athletes in the globe’s coffee epicenter, because…Coca-Cola? According to the Daily News, “A Coca-Cola spokeswoman denied the archer’s claim and said there is coffee in the Olympic Village but it isn’t being supplied by the company.” But apparently, it’s not very easy to find. This must not stand. If I were an athlete in Rio, I’d organize a revolt. And I would not be mollified by some crap like this—I’d want a fresh cup of coffee. In solidarity with my coffee-loving brothers and sisters in the Village, I’ve done a Google dive into catering and sponsorships at the Games to try and figure out what’s going on.

I found a Rio 2016 “Taste of the Games” document that lists the sugary beverage behemoth as the “exclusive” provider of non-alcoholic beverages for the 2016 event, including for its 17,500 athletes. (McDonald’s is listed as the exclusive provider of retail food services, and Skol—a Brazilian brand owned by global beer giant AB InBev, maker of Budweiser—is the exclusive beer provider.)

What does “exclusive” mean? “What this means to caterers is that if menus include products from a sponsor product category, the products of that sponsor must be used unless Rio 2016 approves otherwise in writing.” However, “this does not mean that all food and beverage products must be sourced from these organisations alone,” the document continues. Drinks not offered by the sponsor—in the case of Coca-Cola, say, a fresh cup of joe—can be provided, with the stipulation that it be unbranded. Easy enough for a damn cup of coffee.

So, under the terms of the sponsorship, the Olympic village can provide fresh coffee. But is there a right to coffee? Here the document is muddy. It contains this line about services to be provided to the athletes: “Supply of snacks, fruit, isotonic sports, ugh drinks, soft drinks, mineral water, tea and coffee, biscuits, cereal bars and other items at Athletes’ lounges in competition and training venues.”

Note that this clause mentions “Athletes’ lounges in competition and training venues,” but doesn’t mention the living quarters, where El-Nemr tells NPR he’s being denied coffee—and where athletes wake up in the morning. Coffee time, in other words. Here’s what the document says about that region:

• 24/7 catering service at the Main Dining Hall in the Olympic Village
• High-quality menu with wide range of options, in line with different cultural and nutritional needs in every location serving Athletes.

Not to play Olympic Village lawyer, but that last bit to me sounds like a right to coffee—morning coffee fuels many cultures across the globe. If I were an athlete in Rio, I’d print out that doc, put a big circle around that clause, and take it directly to a Rio 16 official, preferably trailed by a band of annoyed and imposingly athletic fellow coffee fiends.

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How Are You Supposed to Win a Gold Medal If You Can’t Get A Cup of Coffee?

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Russia Demonstrates Anti-Doping Cred By Prosecuting Whistleblower

Mother Jones

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The IOC has upheld the ban on Russian track and field athletes at the Rio Olympic Games, and Russia is naturally upset. “We have done everything possible since the ban was first imposed to regain the trust of the international community,” the Russian Ministry of Sport insists. So how are they treating the whistleblower who provided reporters with all the details of Russia’s doping scheme at the Sochi Olympics?

Russia has opened a criminal case against the former director of its antidoping agency, after his allegations that Moscow had systematically provided performance-enhancing drugs to its Olympic athletes….Russia’s Investigative Committee said Saturday it was opening a case against Grigory Rodchenkov for alleged abuse of authority in his role as head of the Russian antidoping agency, Interfax reported.

….In a series of interviews Mr. Rodchenkov detailed Russia’s intricate scheme of providing athletes with performance-enhancing drugs, with his own participation, and using law enforcement authorities to help cover up the traces in urine samples.

See? Russia is showing its full cooperation by ensuring that the guy who eventually ratted them out is suitably punished for his years of cheating on their behalf. Now, you may or may not approve of this, but as Donald Trump would say, it shows strength. And Donald appreciates strength. Unfortunately, his favorite strongman has turned on him:

Russian President Vladimir Putin walked back some of his previous praise for U.S. presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump on Friday at a forum….Asked about previous comments in which he complimented Trump, Putin said they were misinterpreted, saying he had only ever called Trump “flamboyant,” Reuters reported.

“He is, isn’t he?” Putin said Friday, smiling and prompting applause from the audience. “I did not give any other assessment of him.”

I suppose Trump will have to tweet something tonight about what a loser Putin is. That’ll show him.

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Russia Demonstrates Anti-Doping Cred By Prosecuting Whistleblower

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"No Flag to March Behind": The Amazing Story of Rio’s All-Refugee Olympic Team

Mother Jones

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Six nights a week, Popole Misenga travels by bus from a favela in the northern reaches of Rio de Janeiro to a private college on the city’s west side. The trip takes roughly two hours, and once he arrives—often beat from a day’s work loading trucks—he makes his way past the classrooms to the school’s small outdoor gym, where he slips on a heavy white judo robe, steps barefoot onto blue vinyl mats, and grapples with his workout partners until exhaustion sets in.

These days, Misenga is an Olympic-caliber athlete without a country. But before he was that, he was a member of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s national team, which came to Brazil back in August 2013 to compete in the judo world championships. Misenga had survived the DRC’s devastating civil war only to suffer under its abusive coaches, who he says would punish him and his teammates for losing practice matches by denying them food for days and even locking them in a closet. (The secretary-general of the DRC’s judo federation claims this never happened.)

When the team arrived in Rio that year, things took on a new level of crazy. The head coach promptly disappeared, Misenga says, taking with him the athletes’ passports, food vouchers, and uniforms. Misenga had to borrow a competitor’s robe for his first match, which he lost in three minutes. When the coach finally returned after a three-day bender, Misenga decided he was done with his country: He would stay in Brazil as a refugee. Wandering around Rio, he began stopping every dark-skinned passerby to ask, in French, “Do you know where the Africans live?”

Misenga’s decision kicked off a chain of events that would lead the 24-year-old judoka to the cusp of competing in this summer’s Olympics as part of an inaugural all-refugee team consisting of athletes from around the world. Last October, with the Syrian migrant crisis sweeping Europe, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach announced that, for the first time, refugee athletes “having no flag to march behind, having no national anthem to be played,” could compete in Rio 2016. The Olympic flag would be their banner.

Video by Fabio Erdos

All told, there are 43 athletes out of an estimated 20 million refugees worldwide who have been selected as potential members of Team Refugee Olympic Athletes. The IOC will announce the full team this week at its executive-board meeting; besides Misenga, the committee has publicly identified just two other contenders: taekwondo master Raheleh Asemani, an Iranian living in Belgium, and Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini, who lives in Germany and whose backstory is the stuff of one of those Bob Costas-narrated profiles. Last August, Mardini and her sister left Turkey on a packed boat with 18 other Syrian refugees. After the engine failed, the sisters jumped into the water and helped kick the craft three-plus hours to the Greek island of Lesbos. (Yolande Mabika, another Congolese judoka who stayed in Brazil, also hopes to make the refugee team.)

Misenga grew up during a particularly bloody time in the eastern DRC, the site of a conflict that’s been described as Africa’s world war. A rebel attack forced him to flee his home on foot as a young child, leaving his family behind. (He hasn’t seen them since.) He ended up in the capital, Kinshasa, sleeping on the street with other children before finding an orphanage. It was there, at age nine, that he was introduced to judo. The sport instantly drew him in. “People who like judo are calm,” he told me, “with respect for other people.”

We chatted in the university’s courtyard, steps away from where he trains under the guidance of 73-year-old Geraldo Bernardes, who’s been to four Olympics as coach of Brazil’s national team. The day I visited, Misenga was late to practice, and his worried coach made some calls to make sure he showed up. By the time Misenga arrived, at dusk, the training session was all but over. Bernardes lectured Misenga about not wasting his opportunity before quickly switching gears to discuss his Olympic weight class. (They decided on 198 pounds; Misenga’s stocky frame was most of the way there.)

Bernardes met Misenga through a nonprofit he’d started with Olympic medalist Flávio Canto to provide an outlet for inner-city kids. He’d seen the young judoka through a difficult transition: Early on, Misenga fought like his life depended on it, sometimes yanking his partners onto the concrete slab surrounding the mat. No wonder, Bernardes added, given the “subhuman” conditions Misenga faced back home.

While he has adapted to his training in Brazil, Misenga still struggles away from the mats—especially when it comes to money. Instituto Reação, Bernardes’ nonprofit, helps Misenga with some basics. He’s occasionally found work loading boxes onto trucks for about $11 a day, but Misenga and his Brazilian wife have four mouths to feed—a one-year-old son, plus her three kids from a previous relationship. It embarrasses him that she’s the breadwinner: “A big guy like me should be able to pay for the house.”

It doesn’t help that his friends in Brás de Pina—a favela home to Angolans, Moroccans, and some Congolese—say things like, “Do you really think they’ll let you compete? Give up this dream and get a real job.” But Misenga is holding out hope. Maybe the games will lead to a sponsorship, or at least income steady enough to pay for some new sneakers—he’s been running in a pair scavenged from the trash.

After an hour of talking, it was getting late, and Misenga’s broad shoulders were starting to slump. We walked out through the university’s gate and said our goodbyes at a nearby intersection. Misenga crossed the street and headed up a hill, off to find the first of his two buses home. He still had a long way to go.

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"No Flag to March Behind": The Amazing Story of Rio’s All-Refugee Olympic Team

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